# 2017 mathematics AS/A level specifications: Frequently Asked Questions

MEI has put together a list of FAQs to help with teachers’ questions. It will be updated as more details become available. If you can’t find an answer to your own questions, please email Stella Dudzic, MEI’s Programme Leader for Curriculum.

## What's the difference between the new maths A levels and the current ones?

As with all new A levels, they are becoming linear. It will still be possible to take an AS in Mathematics based on half of the content of the A level but the marks from this will not count towards the full A level – all the A level assessment will be taken at the end of the course.  The new A levels in Mathematics will all have the same content – this has been decided nationally.  The content includes some mechanics and some statistics as well as more or less the same pure content as the current mathematics A levels.  There is a greater emphasis on problem solving, modelling and reasoning in the new A levels but they are intended to be at the same level of difficulty as the current A levels.  This comparison and summary provide more details about the changes.

## What's the difference between the new Further Maths A levels and the current ones?

As with all new A levels, they are becoming linear. It will still be possible to take an AS in Further Mathematics based on half the content of the A level but the marks from this will not count towards the full A level – all the A level assessment will be taken at the end of the course.  All the new A levels in Further Mathematics will have half their content the same – this has been decided nationally.  There is a greater emphasis on problem solving, modelling and reasoning in the new A levels but they are intended to be at the same level of difficulty as the current A levels. This summary provide more details about the changes.

## What is modelling and how will a greater emphasis on it change what we teach?

Modelling in mathematics is about starting with a real life situation, making assumptions to simplify and decide what features are important and which are not.  This allows mathematics to be used to provide information about the real situation.  It is then necessary to check whether the answer to the simplified situation is good enough – perhaps simplifying has ignored a feature which turns out to be important.  Modelling is already present in current A levels – particularly in mechanics and statistics.  Mathematical modelling is also widely used in subjects such as economics.  The new A levels will place more emphasis on thinking about modelling assumptions and will include more modelling using pure mathematics.

## What has happened to decision maths?

Following the publication of the A level Content Advisory Board report on Mathematics and Further Mathematics the content of A level Mathematics is 100% compulsory and does not include decision maths.  Further Mathematics options based on discrete maths have been developed.

## How do the statistics and mechanics in Further Mathematics follow on from the Mathematics content?

The statistics and mechanics in Mathematics are the same for all specifications.  It is up to exam boards to decide what goes in Further Mathematics so different Further Mathematics specifications may have different mechanics and statistics content.  This will build on the mathematics mechanics and statistics content.  All Further Mathematics AS specifications must have at least one route that can be co-taught with AS Mathematics; further detail can be found in the individual specifications.

## Will I be able to keep using the A level text books that I use now?

The pure content of A level Mathematics has not changed much so you may find some of the teaching materials you use now are still useful.  However, the change to linear A levels and an increased emphasis on reasoning, modelling and problem solving will mean that you will need some additional teaching materials that include new types of questions and link between topics.  The mechanics and statistics content of the new A level Mathematics is different to any current M1 or S1 unit so new teaching materials will be needed.  A level Further Mathematics includes 50% compulsory content.  Some of this will be in your current textbooks but it will be important to build in links between topics and a greater emphasis on reasoning, problem solving and modelling.  MEI’s Integral resources are being redeveloped for the new A levels; preview the new version.

## Are all the mathematics specifications of equal difficulty?

The short answer is “yes”.  For A level Mathematics, all the content is the same for all specifications.  For Further Mathematics A level, half the content is specified.  Ofqual monitors qualifications to ensure that it is equally difficult to get grades in all specifications for a particular subject; this process in outlined in the Ofqual blog.  In addition to this, Ofqual has compared the level of difficulty of specimen assessments for all mathematics A levels (see news item)

## Do you have any advice on how to decide which specification to use?

‘The The AMSP has a web page on what to consider when choosing your specifications(s). If you are deciding which AS/A level Further Mathematics specification to use, bear in mind that it doesn't need to be the same as the specification you use for AS/A level Mathematics.’

## What are the differences in the structures of the new AS/A level Further Mathematics specifications?

There are some major differences. See AMSP for a summary comparing them.

## I'm concerned that the new linear structure to A levels might put some students off opting for A level Mathematics. Can you suggest any strategies to help with this?

All A levels will be linear and it will still be possible to teach the AS content in year 12.  Students who are not confident of achieving the full A level could be entered for the AS and achieve a useful qualification in mathematics at the end of year 12.  They can then go on to take the full A level, if they wish to do so, but the AS marks will not count towards the A level grade. You might wish to consider using MEI’s quiz game Bridge It! with year 11 students to help to prepare them for the transition from GCSE Mathematics to AS/A level Mathematics. When students are considering their options, you might find it useful to show them this 30 minute presentation by the AMSP for students and parents/carers about the importance of studying maths post-GCSE. It outlines the options available, and provides compelling reasons for choosing to take an advanced maths qualification.’

## Some students just want to do AS Mathematics. Can I teach them in the same class as A level Mathematics students? What about Further Mathematics?

It will be possible to teach AS Mathematics as the year 12 part of a two year A level Mathematics course.  Further Mathematics specifications will include options; at least one route through an A level Further Mathematics course will include AS content that can be taught in year 12 alongside AS Mathematics.

## We don't get many students choosing Further Mathematics; will we still be able to offer it?

Further Mathematics specifications will include options; at least one route through an A level Further Mathematics course will include AS content that can be taught in year 12 alongside AS Mathematics. Since there is no overlap between Mathematics and Further Mathematics content in the new specifications, you could choose Mathematics from one awarding organisation and Further Mathematics from another.  The AMSP is ready to offer help and advice about offering Further Mathematics.

## Some of the teachers in our maths department have never taught mechanics. Will they all need to be able to? What's the best way of getting them up to speed?

There is no need for all teachers to teach mechanics but you do need at least one teacher for each A level Mathematics class who can do so. The AMSP offers an extended course in teaching mechanics, also a Live Online Professional Development course: AS and A level Maths: Mechanics.’

## Do you have any suggestions for how to approach teaching the statistics content of the new A levels?

This article from Mathematics in School, November 2015 provides some ideas to help you to start thinking about the statistics in the new A level Mathematics and how you might teach it. You might also like to consider booking up for MEI's Get Set for the 2017 A levels one-day Statistics course. The Integral resources for 2017 include ideas for using the large data sets in your teaching of statistics.

## What's the best way to teach problem solving?

It is important to build in problem solving opportunities for all students throughout the course – these can be at the start of a new topic, during the topic or at the end.  There are some suitable resources on the Nrich siteMEI offers free CPD for A level teachers to introduce them to the problem solving resources produced by the Underground Mathematics Project.

## What's the best way to get up to speed with the changes?

There's lots of useful advice here on the MEI website. We also recommend you attend one or more of the MEI or FMSP courses. There are several options and this diagram will help you to decide what's best for you. Alternatively contact us for advice.

## How can I assess students' progress throughout the course?

The scheme of work we have produced will be suitable for all specifications and will include examples of questions to test students’ understanding.  MEI’s Integral resources include regular tests on each topic, shown in this video. Some of these tests are automatically marked online with the results reported to the teacher, preview the new version.

## Will there be coursework in the new specifications?

No, the regulations do not allow coursework in Mathematics and Further Mathematics specifications for teaching from September 2017.

## What will problem solving questions look like in the examinations?

Problem solving questions will vary.  You can see some examples in Ofqual’s A level Mathematics Working Group report. The mark schemes for the specimen assessments include references to the assessment objective elements being assessed. The assessment objective elements for problem solving are 3.1 and 3.2.

## How many examination papers will there be and how long will they be?

Different specifications may have different numbers of examination papers and these may be of different lengths.  For reformed AS and A levels which have started teaching from 2015, a total of 6 hours assessment for A level is typical; for AS, 3 hours is typical.

## Will there still be a formula book and what formulae will students need to learn?

The Ofqual’s conditions and requirements documents for GCE Mathematics and GCE Further Mathematics include appendices that list the formulae that students are expected to learn for AS/A level Mathematics and for AS/A level Further Mathematics, respectively.  Other formulae that the students are expected to use will be provided in examinations. We have provided exercises for practising recall for the AS Mathematics, A level Mathematics, and AS/A level Further Mathematics formulae that students are expected to know. You need to enable macros for these resources to work.  Double click on the “show” box to show the formula.  Similarly for “hide”.

## What notations will students will be expected to understand and use?

The Ofqual’s conditions and requirements documents for GCE Mathematics and GCE Further Mathematics ; include appendices that list the notations that students are expected to understand and use for AS/A level Mathematics and for the core content of AS/A level Further Mathematics, respectively.  Any additional notations that students are expected to understand and use for the non-core content of AS/A level Further Mathematics will be listed in the specifications.

## When will the new awards be available?

The earliest opportunity to be awarded the new AS level Mathematics and the new AS level Further Mathematics will be the summer of 2018. It will also be possible to be awarded the new A levels in Mathematics in the summer of 2018, although the current A level Mathematics will also be available in the summer of 2018. The new A level in Further Mathematics will first be awarded in summer 2019.

## I have heard there will be a large data set for A level Mathematics.  What do students need to be able to do?

The idea is that students should explore the data set using technology such as a spreadsheet.  This should form part of their learning of statistics.  The emphasis of statistics in A level Mathematics is changing to focus more on interpretation of data.  There is some guidance about the large data set in Ofqual’s A level Mathematics Working Group reportMEI is developing advice for teachers on using large data sets in teaching. The FMSP offers a more extensive course in teaching statistics for the 2017 A Level.

## Will there be a non-calculator paper in AS and A level Mathematics?

There is no regulation requiring a non-calculator paper. None of the specifications have included a non-calculator paper.

## What kind of calculator do students need for have for AS/A level Mathematics?  Can they use the same one for AS/A level Further Mathematics?

The national content for AS/A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics requires students to be able to use calculators with particular features.  Options in Further Mathematics may need students to have other features on their calculators.  The features required for the compulsory content are listed below along with an indication of the calculators we know that have these features.  New calculator models come onto the market frequently so the best thing is to check with the manufacturer’s list of features.

 Feature Mathematics or Further Mathematics? What calculators have this feature? Iteration Both Any calculator with an Ans key – most modern scientific calculators have this Summary statistics Both Most scientific and graphical calculators produce summary statistics for lists of data.  Check whether it is also possible to enter frequencies as well as raw data. Probabilities for standard statistical distributions Both Modern graphical calculators have this feature; so do some scientific calculators.  The Casio FX-991EX ClassWiz and the Texas TI-30X pro have general Normal probabilities and cumulative binomial probabilities. Calculations with matrices up to 3 x 3 Further Mathematics Modern graphical calculators have this feature; so do some scientific calculators.  The Casio FX-991EX ClassWiz and the Texas TI-30X pro both have this feature.

## What’s the best way to help students to prepare for the final exams?

It is important to regularly review past learning; this will make final revision easier and also help to prepare students for questions which link different areas of mathematics.  Leading up to the examination, practice papers will be useful. OCR is producing practice papers for both specification A and the MEI specification – it is likely that awarding organisations will also produce practice papers for other specifications.