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Core Maths Mock, Marking and Talk

It’s been a busy couple of weeks trying to prepare the year 12s for their mock Core Maths exam. We decided to use last year’s paper 1 with some of the questions swapped out if we’ve not covered those topics yet.

I have not completed the marking yet – I was expecting marking 31 of these to be time consuming but I’ve underestimated. When it’s done, I’ll write up some of my findings.

I’m giving a talk in Exeter on Wednesday (details here) via the AMSP about delivering Core Maths for the first time. I appreciate it’s bit late notice but if you’re going to be there, please say “Hi”. I won’t spoil the details for those that have signed up to go but I thought I’d share one of the slides as it’s a reassuring reflection of how the students feel about the fact that I don’t fully understand all of the content yet:core maths exeter talk


Christmas Fermi Estimation questions

Here are a few estimation questions I’ve thought of with a Christmas theme.

If every student at this establishment was able to decline their Christmas presents and donate the equivalent monetary value to charity, how much would that be?

How many brussel sprouts will be served (not necessarily eaten) on Christmas day in the UK?

How many metres of fairy lights are on Christmas trees right now?

How many pine needles on an average Christmas tree?

How many hours worth of films will be viewed by humans between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day (inclusive)?

How many mince pies would be needed to keep the UK going through the festive season?

I’ll happily take any more suggestions you may have!

Should Martin take the job?

Just a quick post to share an exam-style question I made. I like questions that feel like you’re giving advice to someone.

Worksheet 4 multi step tax question

Let me know what you think.

Edit: updated the worksheet with a couple of additions.

Kindness Calendar 2018

Last year, my wife and I were inspired by an Action for Happiness advent calendar and decided to create our own version for school.

Here is this year’s version – it’s great to use in tutor time every morning.

Please share with as many people as you can!School Kindness Calendar

Should you prefer a different format, here are a couple of options:

School Kindness Calendar pdf

School Kindness Calendar ppt – you’re welcome to adjust and adapt.

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?