Teaching the totality of GCSE Maths

Ian Andrews, Leader of Learning – Mathematics at Imberhorne School in West Sussex, shares his insight on how to teach the full GCSE Maths specification.

Delivering GCSE Maths can seem extremely daunting. There’s a lot of content, pressure on achieving results and it can feel like there’s not enough time to fit it all in. However, there’s lots of support and help available.

Five key processes

To make it manageable, start with the big picture and then hone in. Once you have a working version that fits with your timings you can focus on the detail. From September 2019, Ofsted have been particularly interested in curriculum intent and design, so now is a good chance to review and refine your curriculum.

1. Department vision and involvement

Before you rush into resources and ordering of topics, think about your key principles. What do you want students to experience and achieve in your school? What is your departmental vision for maths education? Having a clear vision of these elements will help guide your decisions later.

You and your department need to deliver the scheme you decide on so it’s important to get their feedback, additions and work together on it as much as possible. A scheme of work or study should be a constantly evolving document that everyone is responsible for. Use departmental meetings or inset days to plan together. This gives a great chance to discuss teaching and learning and improve consistency across the department.

2. What constraints do you have?

Certain things will be fixed beyond your control. Is Key Stage 3 taught over two or three years? When are mock exams held? When are reports due? Are there activity weeks, or work experience or enrichment days? Having a clear view of these in advance will help you block out your top level scheme of work and allow you to focus on key deadlines.

Also, think about the constraints that you want to add. When do you ideally want to assess students and how often? When do you want Year 11 to start revising for their final exams? Planning in these top level time periods will help you to mould your scheme to best serve you and your students.

3. You don’t have to start from scratch!

The key parts you need from a scheme are:

  • long term view (the year or key stage in total) split into top level topics
  • mid term view (how the topic splits into key objectives or learning)
  • short term view (sequence of lessons).

Exam boards, textbook publishers, maths websites and teachers, have already created free online versions of schemes of work. Use their hard work to save you time. Kangaroo Maths and White Rose Maths have even created five-year schemes of work which give you a suggested outline from Year 7 to Year 11, even for different prior attainment levels.

You don’t need to copy and follow these schemes exactly (though you’re welcome to). In my opinion, it’s much easier to adapt an existing timeline and scheme than start from scratch. Starting with someone else’s scheme also means that all the key topics should be covered (it’s worth checking this against the specification).

AQA have created route maps for Key Stage 4 for Foundation and Higher content spread over two or three years. They’ve also created a one year resit scheme for Key Stage 5 students.

4. Try to minimise workload now and for the future

Streamline your schemes of work and avoid creating different schemes for each set. Keep to two or three schemes at most for each year group. It’s far easier to add extension or support materials to a scheme, than to write and maintain five or six schemes for every set in every year.

There are lots of crossover topics in the GCSE so write these once and share across classes. This helps build a common approach to teaching and enhances consistency across the department, whilst ensuring students get the same experience across teachers and year groups. When it comes to resources it’s often far quicker to search for something you require than to write it from scratch. Now is the time to collate the very best and archive the rest. Experienced teachers in your department will already have lots of resources that they like to use, so take these first. Avoid collecting lots of different worksheets and activities for the sake of it. Find two or three for a lesson that are good and stop!

For gaps in your schemes there are lots of websites with really great resources. Mr Barton Maths has most of the content organised by topic and sub topic then split into worksheets, lessons, rich tasks videos etc. Other websites that do similar are Resourceaholic, Corbett Maths, and Mathsbox.

Something my school has found really useful is to create the schemes of work in Microsoft OneNote. OneNote enables you to paste resources directly into the document. This saves using hyperlinks or having separate folders full of files that aren’t necessarily organised as you’d like.

5. Review and optimise

The last step is reviewing the scheme. Get staff together for a review after each topic or half term. Was there too much content or too little? What was missing? Did it make sense where it occurred in the scheme? (ie what prior knowledge did it build on, when will they next need it?) This process is especially powerful at the end of the year where you might have some gain time from Year 11 leaving. Don’t be afraid to change the order or split or join topics if it makes more sense for your department.

What if it doesn’t all fit? Don’t panic! The great thing about the maths curriculum is that most topics recur, it’s fairly flexible and you can build on previous knowledge. Consider what has happened in Key Stage 3 and use that to your advantage. Maybe certain topics don’t need to be re-taught, but simply reviewed. Flipped learning could be a good option, setting homework to revise a certain topic before you start. If you are subscribed to MyMaths or HegartyMaths, use these to ensure prior knowledge is there. It may also be you need to look at your scheme and move some parts to the end of Key Stage 3. Use starters to recap key information that you need in that lesson to avoid teaching it like it’s from scratch.

Hopefully these five steps will be helpful and take the pressure off slightly. There is an awful lot of content to cover, but there’s lots of support out there to help you and give your students a really great experience.