Maths boffins on fast track
PUPILS GIFTED at maths have completed an AS-level statistics exam two years early with less than half the tuition of sixth-form candidates.
The opportunity to receive after-school coaching at St David's Catholic College was given to 15 pupils with a flair for number-crunching from Corpus Christi Catholic high school and two from St Illtyd's RC high school under a city-wide faith school initiative.
Caroline Morgan, head of maths at St David's, said: "A lot of schools have stopped offering pupils the chance to take exams in certain subjects early.
Maths is a subject that has been dying a bit over the years but I think that youngsters who are good at it just want more of a challenge."
Ms Morgan and maths teacher Jo Halloran visited the two secondary schools and asked 14-year-old GCSE pupils if they wanted to study for the exam.
Around 30 signed an "extended opportunities agreement" to attend a weekly, two-hour maths lesson after school on Mondays. Their schools agreed no maths homework on this day.
Just under half the pupils dropped out but the remaining pupils achieved six A grades, six Bs, four Cs and one E in their first AS statistics exam in January.
They were taught by Ms Halloran, statistics co-ordinator at St David's, and Owen Woods of St Teilo's high school. They used the same material as the sixth-formers but progressed much quicker through the syllabus.
"These were very motivated and able students so we could go quickly," said Ms Halloran.
"Whereas sixth-formers taking AS statistics normally have five hours'
tuition a week, these children had two hours, but the percentage getting high grades in the exam in January was much higher.
"With my regular students we investigate a particular topic and give practical examples to make it more enjoyable, but these children just want to know how to do the calculation."
She explained that AS statistics is particularly appropriate for younger pupils because it doesn't require algebra of a higher level than GCSE maths.
"Those taking the exam also learned to use a "graphic calculator" - a new skill for all Year 10 pupils - because the emphasis in the subject is on interpreting and understanding data, rather than on calculation.
Ms Halloran added: "I think they found being in such a large group of students of the same ability helpful. Perhaps in their own schools they're not keen to ask questions or admit they got the answer quickly.
"It would be nice if a similar programme could be run for all gifted and talented pupils in Cardiff and across Wales."