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Students to be trained to fact-check blogs and adverts in new maths course

Checking out the statistics in blogs and the price promises in supermarkets will be part of a new maths course being drawn up for teenagers.

The government has announced it is spending £20m on new Core Maths qualifications which will focus on topics such as statistics, probability and problem-solving skills for teenagers who have gained a grade C or above at GCSE, but don’t want to take A level maths.

The UK has one of the lowest rates of 17 and 18 year olds studying maths among advanced countries, with just 20 per cent going on with the subject after GCSE. 

But there is concern that dropping maths at 16 is leaving students short of vital skills they need for work and university study.

From last month, ministers made it compulsory for all students who have not got a grade C in GCSE by the age of 16 to carry on studying it until 18.

But for the 200,000 students who have gained a grade C or above in maths, but don’t want to take an A-level in the subject, there are few options. The new Core Maths courses are designed to fill this gap. They will be taught over two years, but contain just two-thirds of the content of an AS level.

The guidelines on what the courses should cover have been drawn up by the Advisory Committee in Mathematics Education (ACME) while the actual courses will be drawn up by exam boards.

The guidelines, published today, say: “Students should be encouraged to access data, generate data, and question the misuse of data and statistics” from authentic sources including national and international databases, media reports, including blogs and promotional and marketing materials.

Professor Stephen Sparks, chair of ACME said: “Whatever path young people choose, they will face situations where they need to be competent and confident in dealing with numbers, data and graphs.

"These courses will give them the opportunity to work mathematically with authentic materials and resources and in a range of realistic contexts, outside of the world of mathematics.”

It comes after the Royal Statistical Society and the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries said that students going on to study subjects as wide-ranging as biology, history and geography needed better statistical knowledge than the current A levels in these subjects provide. It also pointed out that in New Zealand, students opted to study mathematics courses which included statistics without the need to make mathematics compulsory for all. 

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