As part of the Maths Scholarship Programme, I was fortunate to attend one of the CPD events entitled “Inspiring students with real-life contexts and Core Maths”, led by Elizabeth Hopker-Blunt. The event discussed what kind of maths students typically study post-16, what Core Maths is, and the material covered in the course.

Core Maths is a level 3 course equivalent to an AS-Level which has a large focus on the real-life applications of maths, typically taken alongside other level 3 qualifications when A-Level Mathematics is not taken. Even though maths is the most popular A-Level, there are many students who choose not to take it and therefore many talented students don’t take any maths courses post-16. A report by the Nuffield foundation, which studied 24 countries, stated that less than 20% of UK students studied maths to 18, compared with over 50% in some other countries. Core Maths is a relatively new qualification, first introduced in 2015, so not every school or college offers it just yet. However, it is a post-16 qualification designed for those with a grade 4/C or better in GCSE Mathematics and so provides an excellent opportunity for more students to study maths post-16, particularly students with B and C grades. In addition, some universities make alternative offers to students with Core Maths qualifications.

The Core Maths course is a very practical one and covers a wide range of topics. Students learn things that they are likely to take with them into the real world, such as calculating student loan repayments and mortgages depending on the exam board. Data representation is a key part of the course; Students learn how to look at graphs carefully, being able to spot what the graph is actually saying without being misled. I think this is important, as a lot of data is represented in a misleading fashion, so teaching students to think critically about it helps prevent them from making poor inferences from the information. Perhaps the most interesting part of the webinar, and the Core Maths course, was the material on fermi estimation. Questions such as “how many piano tuners are there in London?” help us to think about the assumptions we make in calculation, and what factors influence the answer to the question. As part of the webinar, we came up with our own fermi problems, which I had a lot of fun doing.

The webinar was highly informative, not only in providing information about the Core Maths course, but also bringing to light the lack of retention in mathematics post-16. My experience of the event was excellent, and this has encouraged me to attend future events on the scholarships programme.

By Edmund Mann

Edmund's Instagram @eddiemann64 and you'll also find him on LinkedIn: Edmund Mann.

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