Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Use of Technology in the new A level Mathematics qualifications

Last Friday (8th April) the DfE published the GCE subject-level guidance for mathematics.  This guidance is for awarding bodies to help them in designing their specifications and assessments.  The full document can be found at:

Requirement for awarding bodies to explain how use of technology will permeate the study of mathematics

In the Overarching themes and use of technology section:

Paragraph 8 of the Content Document states that –

8. The use of technology, in particular mathematical and statistical graphing tools and spreadsheets, must permeate the study of AS and A level mathematics.

This statement should be interpreted primarily as indicating the desired approach to teaching GCE Qualifications in Mathematics.

However, this statement also has implications for assessments. Consequently, in respect of each GCE Qualification in Mathematics which it makes available, or proposes to make available, we expect an awarding organisation to explain and justify in its assessment strategy for that qualification how this statement has been reflected in the qualification’s design.

I think this is very good news in terms of the design brief given to the awarding bodies and, if it applied in the way it is intended, should result in greater and more effective use of technology in the A level mathematics classroom.  I look forward with interest to seeing how the awarding bodies justify that their assessment strategies are ensuring that technology permeates the study.

Strategies I would like to see

There are two main strategies that I would like to see employed: an explicit and an implicit one.

I expect to see questions that explicitly refer to the use of technology.  This could be through means of a statistical test that a candidate would perform on their calculators or by referencing spreadsheets in the questions.  It will be clear to teachers that in order to prepare candidates for the assessment they should be using technology in the teaching and learning.

In addition to this I would like to see questions where, although there is no requirement for the candidates to use technology in answering them, they will be better prepared for them if they have using technology in their studies.  For example a question asking a candidate to explain the impact of the parameter b on the graph of y=x²+bx+4 is likely to be answered better by students who’ve been using graphing tools to explore curves in their study.  This is an implicit strategy but can still be very powerful in encouraging use in the classroom.

I look forward to seeing the specifications and sample assessments when they are produced!