Guest post - 7 minute read
Keith Proffitt, MEI Curriculum Developer
This blog was originally published on 1 August 2017 to cover the general questions raised during the reform on the approach taken in the H630/H640 OCR B (MEI) A Level Mathematics specification regarding the new large data set requirement.
Then republished a second time on 3 March 2020 to include further questions raised by teachers of the first cohort.
This new version now includes updated links to the teacher guide notes for the current large data sets.
The large data sets associated with AS and A Levels in mathematics should serve two purposes: they are a teaching resource and they provide a context for setting examination questions.
Notes on the large data sets for each of the published H630/H640 large data sets:
We issued a set of three data sets for AS/A Level Mathematics B (MEI). Our aim is that teachers will use all three for teaching, but for each cohort of students just one will be the focus of some of the questions in the exam. Each data set will be clearly labelled as to when it is used.
* Now autumn 2020.
So if you teach A Level Maths over two years, then the class you start teaching in September 2020 will have large data sets 3, 4 and 5 for use in lessons, but will only see some questions on large data set 4 in their H630/02 AS exam in 2021 (if they sit AS) and their H640/02 A Level exam in 2022, as the following table demonstrates.
MEI and OCR have some experience of pre-release data from our Core Maths B qualification. The CIA World Factbook data set that forms the current pre-release for that qualification became the basis for our thinking and development for AS and A Level.
We tried to write different types of questions using that data set, based on A Level content. When doing this, we realised that things in some countries have changed quite a lot during the lifetime of the legacy mathematics specifications so the data set would need to be updated from time to time - we didn’t want students learning about how things used to be in the world 15 years ago if that no longer reflected the current position.
We were aware that some students (and maybe teachers) did not enjoy the statistics in the legacy Mathematics A Levels. We think that may be because in mathematics the focus has been on learning statistical techniques without much idea of why you might want to use them.
The large data sets provide a place to use the techniques. As part of the development, MEI worked on a project with students and teachers working with different large data sets; the students were really enthusiastic about working with real data and the way this helped them to extend their understanding.
We thought that working with more than one data set could encourage students to understand that the techniques they are learning are applicable to a wide variety of data.
The use of large data sets in teaching and examining A Level Mathematics is new – it is an opportunity to make the statistics students learn more similar to the ways they will use statistics in future study and work. We thought it was important to review the data sets used and to make sure they continued to be suitable for examining.
This needs a three-year cycle – two years for using the data set in teaching and a year to review and update if necessary. LDS 4 was a refreshment of the data from LDS 1, and LDS 5 is a refreshment of the data from LDS 2. The decision to replace or refresh the LDS is dependent upon the post-assessment review of the questions set in the live assessment so LDS 6 may be a refreshment or replacement of LDS 3.
We wanted to make the process of working with data manageable for teachers, educationally valuable for students and workable for examining. We decided that three data sets – one per cohort – updated on a rotating cycle would do the trick. In the first year of teaching the specification, teachers might choose to work with one data set. The next year, they could still use the lessons that had gone well as well as introducing the next data set and so on.
Our hope is that teachers will use all the data sets for teaching, concentrating more on the examination data set nearer the end of the course. For students, working with more than one data set will help them see that statistics is about working with a variety of data sets.
The data in the CIA World Factbook is grouped by country; we realised that data based on individuals would allow better teaching of distributions. There aren’t many publicly available data sets which contain ungrouped data on individuals. The NHANES data set, from American health surveys, is often used in statistics courses and it contains a wealth of data so we decided to use that as one data set.
Having got data about countries and data about (American) individuals, we thought it would be good to have some England-based data – the London Datastore is a good place to find suitable data and so we ended up with the following three initial data sets which we hope will appeal to students with different interests in terms of other subjects they are taking.
How have you used the large data set in class? We’d love to hear your thoughts in ‘comments’ below.
Planning to teach our Mathematics or Further Mathematics A Levels? Let us know so we can make sure you have everything you need.
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Keith Proffitt is a Curriculum Developer for MEI. Keith has a BA in Mathematics and a PGCE in Secondary Mathematics. He taught in secondary schools for 25 years, including 13 as Head of Mathematics. He worked for OCR for over 5 years, which included being Qualifications Manager for the MEI A Level specifications in mathematics and further mathematics. He helped to develop the Further Pure with Technology unit and the Quantitative Methods qualifications while working for OCR. He joined MEI in April 2014.