Hints and tips - 5 minute read
Ruth Wroe, OCR Subject Advisor
In this blog I’ll be promoting the importance of Core Maths to social science students and highlighting some useful cross-curricular resources.
The University of Leeds Core Maths research project highlighted that Core Maths was even more important this year for easing students back into mathematical thinking after a period of disruption. It stated that “all post-16 students with quantitative subjects in their programme would benefit from being able to practise the mathematical elements of those qualifications within Core Maths lessons”. This, of course, is true at any time.
In biology, psychology and business, in particular, 10% of the marks available within the written exams are for assessment of maths. This rises to 20% in A Level Economics. Likewise, in geography, quantitative skills are assessed in both the exams and in the independent investigation; the latter being worth 20% of the total marks. Consequently, there is even greater emphasis on students getting to grips with the quantitative skills involved in these subjects.
The mathematical skills being assessed are at Level 2 standard or higher, so students who achieved a pass at GCSE Foundation tier are likely to benefit from a little more support with the maths content.
Delivering Core Maths alongside other Level 3 subjects provides these students with that much needed mathematical boost; reinforcing key skills met at GCSE as well as introducing some new content that will be used in their other Level 3 subjects.
The maths assessed in, for example, A Level Biology, will be in the context of that particular subject and the practical application of mathematical skills is what Core Maths is all about. It focuses on problem solving in authentic contexts, so students become more practised in applying their mathematical and quantitative skills to real situations – a skill not just useful for enhancing performance in other subjects but a necessary life skill.
The Higher Education Academy highlighted the quantitative skills gap that exists at higher education in psychology. It reported that over 85% of psychology students in their STEM student survey came to university knowing that there would be quantitative methods in their degree programme, yet more than a third of students in the survey said that they struggled with quantitative methods in their degree programme.
The synergy of studying Core Maths alongside other Level 3 subjects is seen as so beneficial for some colleges that they’ve made it compulsory for social science students.
This may not be the route for all post-16 students, but it should definitely be promoted to students who need more practice at applying maths in context or who may not be as mathematically confident.
Universities are beginning to recognise its relevance by providing alternative admissions offers to students who take it alongside their other Level 3 subjects but its value in terms of entry requirements still needs wider promotion.
The table below shows the content covered in Core Maths A (MEI) and Core Maths B (MEI) that is required in A Level Biology (1), Psychology (2), Business and Economics (3), and Geography (4). Please note that lighter shading indicates sections that are less important or where only some of that section content is relevant.
Some of the resources listed here can be used in Core Maths lessons.
Our Maths for biology webpage has online resources for five modules: arithmetic and numerical computation, handling data, algebra, graphs, geometry and trigonometry. The Mathematical skills handbook provides contexts in Biology for the different mathematical skills and there is also a useful Mathematical skills statistics booklet.
A variety of statistical guides and handbooks are located under Teaching activities for research methods in the planning and teaching section of the A Level Psychology webpage. The Quantitative skills guide for GCSE Psychology also serves as a useful precursory read for A Level students.
There are three components to the delivery of data skills: a teacher guide, a set of PowerPoints and a student workbook. In addition, the Royal Geographical Society hosts the data skills in geography project resources.
MEI's Integrating Mathematical Problem Solving Resources (IMPS) are designed to help teachers of mathematics and teachers of other subjects at A Level to teach relevant aspects of mathematics and statistics, showing how they are used in solving real problems. Topics are covered from biology, business and finance, economics, geography, chemistry, physics, psychology and sociology.
If you have any queries or questions, you may find the answer in our FAQs or you can email us at email@example.com, call us on 01223 553998 or Tweet us @OCR_Maths.
You can also sign up to subject updates and receive information about resources and support.
Ruth has worked in the OCR Maths team since 2014. Before joining OCR, Ruth taught Maths in the UK, New Zealand, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar. Ruth worked on the development of the reformed A Level Maths qualifications for first teaching in 2017 and she supports our Level 3 Maths qualifications.