Silk from a SoW

As the exam boards compete to get us to sign up for delivering their flavour of the new A level Mathematics, it’s not easy to know on which criteria to judge and compare them. As the new content is fully prescribed, I think it will come down to the nature of assessment (number of papers, content of each, any quirks of style) and the support offered to teachers (additional teaching resources, schemes of work, online services, etc). Many departments are perhaps very comfortable with their current board and might only make a change if there is significant reason.

I’ve been fascinated to read Bruce Hampton’s Thoughts on A level Mathematics blog posts as he reflects on the process of comparing the exam boards from several perspectives. (Bruce is on Twitter as @bhampton271828.) He has already discussed issues such as problem-solving, planning a coherent scheme of work and a comparison of the large data sets that each exam board will use.

In this post I’m going to briefly look at what the boards offer in the way of schemes of work/resources to help with planning.

AQA

This post is in fact motivated because of some AQA resources I saw recently (more on which in a moment). They have a dedicated webpage to collate resources specifically about planning, although bizarrely the kind of planning documents I’m looking for are actually on their Teaching Resources webpage.

One interesting approach is their “Route Map” which essentially uses Powerpoint as a way to organise a programme of work. There are initial slides (all editable) for Year 12 and Year 13, like this:

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and each coloured rectangle jumps to another slide which (at the moment, at least) just lists subject content statements. I’d never thought of using Powerpoint to achieve such an interactive document, but I can see it has some merits.

The other planning documents that AQA will produce are ones they call “Teaching Guidance” (link is to a sample one for Differentiation). I’ve got to be honest: I think this document is rather disappointing. It summarises the content statements and then exemplifies them with a handful of examination-style questions. Apart from perhaps clarifying what is or is not examinable, I can only see this encouraging a teaching-to-the-test approach. There appears to be no thought about prior knowledge, links to other topics, common misconceptions etc.

Edexcel

(At the time of writing, Edexcel is the only board currently awaiting accreditation but in spite of this, they are pushing ahead and publishing a number of draft documents.) Edexcel have a page for Teaching & Learning Materials which contains some suggested course organisation, documents that map between the old and new specs for Maths and Further Maths, and their schemes of work.

I’ll focus on the schemes of work and they seem pretty comprehensive. The introduction to these documents explains the type of content to be found within:

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This is much more closely aligned with what I believe a scheme of work should be: a document that really focusses on important issues to consider when teaching each topic.

Edexcel are also providing a free online “interactive scheme of work” which, from watching the overview video, seems like a great tool. I wonder if it will be customisable to a deeper extent for departments to annotate teaching points etc.

OCR

OCR’s resources are all linked directly from the qualification page. Of note here are the “Lesson element” samples such as this one on surds. This reminds me very much of the Standards Unit resources (still available online – I usually get them from mrbartonmaths): it comprises activities such as card sorts, ready to be used in class, but accompanied by teaching notes.

However, I can’t actually find anything resembling a scheme of work or even an example schedule of how the content could be organised in a school year.

MEI (OCR B)

In a way, the page for this qualification on OCR’s site has even less than the OCR A page. There is of course reference to (and sample materials from) the Integral maths website which many people will know already. However, it’s on MEI’s own site that things get more interesting.

On their Schemes of Work page, MEI have divided the A level content into 43 units and shared a planning document for each one. (See for example, AS Differentiation.) The key elements of these documents appear to be:

  • content statements from the specification
  • commentary
  • sample MEI resources (really selling Integral maths!)
  • use of technology
  • prerequisites
  • links to other topics
  • prompts for mathematical thinking
  • opportunities for proof
  • common errors

Again, much of this is what I believe a scheme of work should be about.

Some Summary

Board + points – points
AQA Interesting use of Powerpoint to collate a SoW, linking to other slides with more detail SoW only contains subject content items; Teaching guidance documents repeat content items and only demonstrate exam-style questions
Edexcel SoW contains much more comprehensive information – detailed commentary; online SoW builder seems very interesting Fairly dry presentation: although the SoW is editable, it’s one long document; no references to uses of technology
OCR “Lesson element” documents seem well thought-out and practical No scheme of work/planning documents that I can find
MEI (OCR B) Separate documents for each of 43 ‘units’ of study; detailed commentary & opportunities for technology and proof It will be interesting to see how many of the referenced activities become ‘paywalled’ in the Integral resources site