UCM GCSE Maths Home Page
A really rather large collection of Padlets for GCSE Maths.
This is an introduction to my maths Padlet site, the home page of which you can find at ucm.padlet.org/maths/gcsehome. It’s a collection of over 100 pages which together contain a complete online course for GCSE maths including video lessons, past paper walkthroughs, revision exercises, and a lot of Muppets (you’ll see…). There are no logins required so explore at your leisure.
The site is specifically designed for adult GCSE students, a demographic that I’ve often felt has been overlooked (I’m using the term ‘adult’ here to refer to part-time students in their twenties upwards and to differentiate them from full-time students in their late teens). There are some superb resources for adult numeracy students, and there has been a much-needed focus in recent years on the needs of 17/18 year-old students who are re-sitting GCSE maths, but I have been unable to find many resources which specifically focus on the needs, and cater to the abilities, of adult GCSE students.
Teaching adult GCSE maths students presents some very different challenges to teaching younger students. They are not ‘re-sitting’ (a near-success at O-level in 1986 cannot really compared to a near-success at GCSE in 2022) and they often start out in September with a base level of knowledge well below that of students who took GCSE maths in June. On the positive side they are often very keen and willing to put in many hours of independent study.
It was as a result of the pandemic that I began to appreciate how effective online resources could be in supporting adult students. After the first lockdown my college subscribed to an online provider for GCSE maths (I won’t say which provider, as what follows may sound like a criticism, though it really isn’t). All our students benefitted from this, but it was clear that our adult students really took advantage of it. Over time, however, it became clear that the online provider we used, and others we investigated, didn’t quite fit the needs of adult students. Their resources were (understandably) aimed at schoolchildren, where the structure, tone and pace needed are completely different to that required when trying to cram a complete GCSE course into around 25 weeks of teaching.
The Padlet site was created to cater specifically to adult GCSE students:
- It mirrors exactly what I do in class – the lessons are question-for-question the same. This means that if a student misses a class (as many often do, for perfectly understandable reasons), they can go online and do the same lesson.
- There is a constant focus on ‘the exam’. Adult students usually approach GCSE maths as a job that needs doing; whilst they often take a (grim!) satisfaction from being able to do something they previously thought they could never do, there is a clear aim in mind – to get that grade 4. Much of the advice given throughout the year is framed in those terms.
- It gives allows me to give optional ‘bonus lessons’ to students who are coping well. For example, I don’t attempt to teach trigonometry in class – it’s too abstract and there’s too long a process to learn to do it justice in the one hour I could potentially devote to it (an hour, incidentally, that would necessitate dropping something else). Instead, I explain briefly what it is and signpost students who would like to give it a go to the online lesson. This allows me to focus on grade 4 material in class, whilst giving students aiming for a grade 5 the resources they need to achieve this.
- Finally, it uses methods (formula triangles, BODMAS, ‘Keep-Flip-Change’, etc.) that are usually considered bad practice. Again, I think this comes down to the needs of your particular students. Within five years of secondary education there is the time to develop connections between topics and to encourage true mathematical thinking. Shortcuts often do more harm than good. Teaching a part-time evening class, however, is a different proposition. Time-pressure influences every decision and sometimes a shortcut is the best, or only, option.
One further point I should stress is that the site is very exam-specific. My students follow the Edexcel IGCSE curriculum, which was chosen because there is no non-calculator paper. This saves a huge amount of time (and pain), but does mean that some parts of the site will be of limited use for those of you who use different exam boards. There is often a tension in maths teaching between complexity of technique and complexity of arithmetic; maths teachers often choose slightly more complicated methods because it keeps the arithmetic simple. The IGCSE option allows me to keep to the simplest possible methods, but you may find some of my choices are not appropriate if your students are facing a non-calculator paper.
That’s probably enough for now. If you would like an advice about different parts of the site, you are very welcome to contact me (@coffeetimemaths). In the meantime, have a look around and see what’s of interest. There’s a lot of content so I recommend you start with the ‘Weekly lesson guide’ to get an idea of how it works.
Aside from a bit of tinkering over the summer, the site will remain pretty much the same until September. At that point I will be temporarily removing some features in preparation for the arrival of next year’s students. Pages such as the First Fifty Weekly Workout, Try and Try Again, Final Revision Page and Exam Day Page contain revision material and advice that I release to our students in the final few weeks. Everything will be accessible, however, if you have the links so just get in touch.
I hope it’s of use.
Steve is a FE maths teacher, mostly, from the Isle of Man. He makes FE-oriented GCSE maths stuff and shares it!