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Financial questions I wasn’t expecting

So, I’ve taught a single lesson of Finance to one of my Core Maths classes and there are already things I’ve been asked that I didn’t know. Some I was able to look up at the time, some I had actually guessed might be a question and others I’m looking in to.

I used these 5 example payslips as a starting point (all from a google search for UK payslip examples). After spending a long time getting students to look at them and see what they have in common as well as asking anything they wanted to know, we moved on to looking at some basic tax calculations using the preliminary material from last year.

Here are some questions I was asked along with (some) answers:

What does BACS mean?

Basically it’s a bank to bank transfer. It stands for Banker’s Automated Clearing Service.

What does OSPP mean?

Ordinary Statutory Paternity Pay.

What does Attch: CSA mean?

A court order for an ‘attachment of earnings’ from the Child Support Agency.

Why does the tax year start in April?

Complex. Much easier to check out this article.

Why is the maximum for Child Tax Credits £243 per month.

I don’t know. I can tell you it’s £55 per week and it’s separate for each parent but that’s not much help.

Why does the gross for National Insurance value sometimes appear a few pounds less than the gross for tax?

Not sure about this one either. Have a look at the payslips for examples though.

In the preliminary material, it says “To calculate your income tax if your annual income is £100 000 or less” and then some instructions. What is different if you earn more than £100 000 ?

Also don’t know yet.

What’s the difference between Nil National Insurance and 0% National Insurance?

Essentially, Nil means you haven’t contributed. Your benefits could be affected if there are gaps in your National Insurance record. If you fall in to the 0% band, you’re considered to have contributed to National Insurance even though you haven’t actually paid any money.

Do you only pay tax when you are 18 years old?

No. You’re eligible to pay tax and National Insurance from age 16 if you reach the thresholds for either of them.

Why are the words ‘Gross’ and ‘Net’ used?

Don’t know and am struggling to find out.

That’s it for now. I hope you’ve learnt something and if you can answer any of the ones I couldn’t, please leave a comment!



Core Maths: Data Handling and Finance

A quick Core Maths update.

Data Handling

I’ve gone through all of the graphical aspects that my students need to cover including box plots, cumulative frequency, histograms and stem and leaf diagrams. If I’m honest it was a fairly dry approach making use of lots of GCSE examples and questions. It was difficult to manage having students that hadn’t covered the material due to doing foundation tier while others were already comfortable having covered them at higher GCSE. It’s certainly an aspect I’ll have to talk to other teachers about and get some better ideas/approaches for next time. This is definitely the topic I’ve found hardest so far as it’s felt like there’s been a lot of material to cover in a short amount of time and I opted for the ‘here’s how to do it, now here’s some questions’. I would like to teach this through some sort of project really but I was worried that there would be very little practise of the actual skills involved. Anyone, that’s one to plan better for revision and next year.


I’m quite excited about teaching the finance aspects as it’s definitely one of the main topics that students have taken the course for. It’s also a major selling point for parents when I was talking about the course at the sixth form open evening.

I tend to start my planning with a mind map and I like to use a piece of software called ‘pen and paper’:

I’m not really very far through the planning yet but some sources I’ve been pointed to are:

Young Money

Stella’s MEI conference notes

Barclay’s Life Skills (filter by ‘finance’)

Natwest’s MoneySense

It’s still very early days and there’s a lot to look through and filter out. I’ve decided to start with looking at payslips (it’s very hard to find convincing looking mock ones!) and then move into Tax and National Insurance using the preliminary material that seems consistently used in the AQA course.

My school has also been sent a set of these books:

I’ve had a look through and I’m sure there are some useful bits in it (the extensive glossary if nothing else!) but it does seem very text-heavy at first glance. No doubt once I’ve had more time to look through again, I’ll pull out the most useful parts.

Some concerns

I’ve been teaching since 2001 and in that time, there have been (many) things I’ve taught but not really understood. There have also been things I’ve taught but can’t actually really do very well (I’m looking at you year 13 pure maths). Usually, I’ve managed and have had a network of other, experienced (or simply better at maths) teachers to lean on, however finance is definitely an area where I feel a bit like I’m somewhat in the dark. I’m going to go out on speculative limb and suggest that might be the same for many core maths teachers. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know the difference between AER and APR (I do now and the secret is they’re basically the same but ones for saving, ones for borrowing) and I actually am not sure how to do some of the finance questions.

It is a little embarrassing (and I know how the psychology, chemistry and DT teachers that have been asking for maths help feel) but on the other hand, it’d be stupid to pretend I can do these things and hope for the best. So, here’s a question I’d like help with:

If I use a payday loan company and borrow £100 with an APR of 4032% for a period of 15 days, paying off the full amount (with interest) at that point, how much do I actually have to pay? [and how did you work it out?]

I have searched the interest for help and found nothing useful so any help you can give would be great! I’d be willing to bet that if I asked this question of many people working in banks, they might not be able to answer either (although that’s possibly me clutching at straws to make me feel better!)

Quick revision quiz for Core Maths

Just a quick post this time. I’m aware there’s a lot of information to take in during the Core Maths course and that it’d be silly to wait until the end to try and revise it all.

I’ve put together this simple list of questions as an in-class quiz. I’m planning on allowing them to look in their notes so that this task will also serve to see how organised their folders are.

Here are my questions (based on covering Fermi estimation, Correlation/Regression, Numerical data analysis).

Give a suggestion for the size of the population of a small town.
What is “primary data”?
What word beginning with R is another one to describe a line of best fit?
Complete the sentence, “Interpolation is generally _____”
What is the average life expectancy in the UK?
How many countries are there?
What is “discrete data”?
What is a reasonable suggestion for the height of a house?
What are the highest and lowest that the correlation coefficient, r, can be?
T/F In science, a line of best fit can be a curve.
T/F Standard deviation is linked to consistency of results.
Briefly describe how a systematic sample is done.
What is the average number of hours sleep per night?

Planning Core Maths lessons: Two approaches

As the second term begins, I’ve been thinking about my planning for Core Maths. The short and honest truth is that it’s been taking me *ages*. I want these lessons to be of a quality that I can share with others and I intended to put the time in now, as I go along so that they only need tweaking next year once I have more experience.

I’ve been pulling ideas from Twitter, other teachers and text books to make some resources I’m really proud of and you can download them on the TES. I felt like I wanted to make some resources for Estimation (as there simply isn’t that much around) and I knew I could adapt my numerical analysis, correlation and regression lessons from A level to suit the course.

However, it’s very time consuming and my next topic (see the scheme of work here) is graphical data analysis, which something I’ve really taught much of as it hasn’t been in the AQA S1 and S2 modules. Since these are mostly GCSE topics anyway, I’m going to go down the route of adapting resources I can find and treating this module more as a collation exercise. I’m sure I’ll be writing new material for some other topics and eventually for these ones too but I can’t do it all and there are some great resources out there already anyway!

So, I’m going to have a few posts that are simply a collection of resources, in the order I intend to use them. I’m going to teach each of the graphical methods and then tie them together into a task. First up is:

Stem and Leaf diagrams

Beat the Teacher (described here by Jo Morgan)

Stem and leaf explanation ppt (Craig Barton)

Creating Stem and Leaf Diagrams (Jo again)

Stem and leaf diagram very simple worksheet (only use for very weak students if needed) (nottcl)

Interpreting/reading S&L diagrams inc back to back (I’ll adapt to include some IQR) (Dannytheref)

GCSE exam questions (Maths Genie)

Average and Standard Deviation

What does average mean?

When putting together some slides for this section of Core Maths, I put in the question “What does average mean?” I realised I didn’t actually know where the word comes from so I used Google’s etymology search and found that it comes from a time when cargo ships would be transporting goods around. Sometimes the goods would be damaged and the French word avarie is “damage to ships or goods”. The decision as to how to fairly share out the costs was developed and the suffix -age from the word damage was used. Eventually, this word came to be associated with a more general sense of sharing things out as is done in the mean.

How does Standard Deviation work?

I’ve also been  teaching the Standard Deviation. I made a point of going through the long calculation (even though it’s not needed for this course) as I think it’s important to try and understand what is going on rather than blindly use a calculator. It’s not a complex process and most students were fine with following it along. I also think it gave them an even better appreciation for the power of practising with their calculator modes (given the alternative process!)

When does Standard Deviation matter?

To help come up with situations where standard deviation is important I asked Twitter to suggest scenarios and got a nice list. I’m working on putting these into a worksheet (which I’ll share once it’s ready) but I wanted to thank all those that contributed. I discussed this and the etymology of average on episode 61 of my podcast Wrong, but Useful.

Mean and Standard Deviation in Psychology

In terms of comparing data sets using mean and sd, I went looking for other questions and found this one on an AQA A level Psychology paper. (Note that there’s no expectation for them to be able to calculate the sd in that course.)

Psychology Q Mean and SD table

Psychology Q Mean and SD question

I think it’s worth noting that it’s 4 marks and looking at the mark scheme is interesting too:

Psychology Q Mean and SD answer

The Examiner’s report on this question is eye-opening too:

Although there were some strong responses, generally students found this harder than anticipated.A number failed to receive any credit due to simply defining the mean and the standard deviation. It was also far too common for students not to understand and answer the ‘justify’ component of the question. Many students simply restated information from the table or provided possible explanations or conclusions, as opposed to justifications. Although students generally saw the mean as showing a difference, there was often the claim that music hindered performance, with confusion regarding time being a higher score, meaning slower. Worryingly, some students still have little understanding of standard deviation.

Hopefully that’s given you some things to think about regarding this topic and our course will help with that bolded section above!

Types of Data

Here’s a simple resource I’ve created that I like. It was based on a tweet I sent asking for examples of discrete data that aren’t integers and aren’t shoe sizes.

I’ve combined those suggestions along with some continuous and qualitative types (both of which are far easier to come up with!) and made them into a tick sheet. Students work collaboratively on the first set of examples, then, after going through those answers together, there’s another set for them to have a go at by themselves.

Worksheet 1 Types of data

Thanks to all those that contributed and feel free to use this yourself.

Core Maths – reflections so far

I’ve been teaching Core Maths for 6 weeks now and I think it’s about time for some reflections. A lot of this focuses on things that I’d like to improve/modify for next year but it’s worth pointing out that plenty has gone well!

If you have any suggestions, hints, tips or solutions, please leave a comment.


This was a great choice to start with. It’s punchy, attention grabbing and ‘different’ to GCSE maths. It feels like it’s relevant to do and there are easy links both to real life but also to more generic ‘good skills to develop’. A lot of my students have really enjoyed the liberation of not having to focus on the right answer.

Students starting late

Due to the nature of post 16 courses, there were quite a few students who missed some of the first lessons. I need to think of a ‘catch up’ system that doesn’t take up too much of my time. This is also true for students that miss a lesson.


This has broadly gone well (they were expecting to get homework) but I’d underestimated the length of time it’d take to mark them. I’ll probably stick with it next year and see if just being more aware of the marking time helps.


There just aren’t that many out there (mine are here and updating as I go). I’m trying really hard to make mine good quality and therefore reusable so it is taking a long time per lesson.


Having said that, there is a strong group of teachers that are very good at sharing and giving advice on twitter. If you’re not already on there, I’d really recommend it just for this! The hashtag #CoreMaths is well worth a look every now and again.


This was the first topic that really lost some of the students, particularly those with lower grades at GCSE. Unsurprisingly, their straight line graph work wasn’t secure and the complicated nature of the regression lines was a bit much. I also think that the correlation topic was a bit complex and I need to consider how to deliver this better (maybe just more slowly) next time.


They don’t all have them. I want them to have the Casio fx991-Class Wiz but they’re up to £30 each! There’s the possibility of us doing a loan scheme but I do think the lack of calculators in general did not help with correlation and regression. There was, unfortunately, a correlation with those that did less well at GCSE tending to be the ones that did not have calculators.


The Advanced Maths Support Programme is fantastic. They are busy on twitter and working hard behind the scenes to support maths teachers in delivering this course. They are running some CPD sessions soon and, in a pretty much unprecedented turn of events for CPD, they asked what sort of things we’d want to be included and then have actually made a course focussing on those things. What more could you want? If you’re not registered to get their emails, do it now!

So, in summary, obviously a mixed bag with this new course but lots of positives and some things to work on for next year.