My year 12s recently were asked to complete the crash Maths practise paper A in exam conditions. My students quickly told me the next day that they had found this paper difficult. At the time I must admit that I agreed with them and replied ‘indeed, that was a difficult paper’. It has recently struck me, who am I to currently determine if a paper is difficult or not? Until we actually see the A-Level papers next year it is hard to gauge what is classed as a difficult paper. I then decided to complete the paper myself and found that I actually started to change my opinion. The content of the paper in all honesty, did not appear that hard. Everything in the paper my students have covered at some point in the year. I started to realise that I wanted to show my students that the paper was actually accessible, they just needed to learn to ‘decode’ the questions.
I started to think about Edexcel’s approach of gold, silver and bronze papers. The gold papers contain just the questions, the silver have some scaffolding and the bronze contains the most scaffolding. I decided that I would take this approach with the paper my year 12s have just done. With some scaffolding, I am pretty confident that they will be able to feel achievement on this paper and realise that what at first appears hard, actually wasn’t as bad as it seemed.
I have produced a power point presentation to work alongside the crash maths practise paper A that hopefully provides helpful tips to my students, If I provide the correct scaffolding now and build my students up, hopefully they will learn how to eventually stand on their own. My idea is to set the paper as homework and give my students access to my power point. I intend to ask them to write on their work in different colour pen where they used the power point so I can see what they accessed alone and what they accessed with guidance. On the very final slide I have included a challenge question from mathedup and have asked my students to write their own hints for this question.
If this process appears to help my students then I plan on creating some more helpful hints for other papers and hope that my students will begin to learn what questions to ask themselves in exams and build their confidence.
My powerpoint can be accessed here: Crash Maths Practise Paper A helpful hints