QCA news

11th May 2001 at 01:00
THE new GCE AS-level Use of Mathematics will be nationally available for teaching from September 2001, with first full award from summer 2002. The Government hopes that the availability of this qualification will encourage more students than at present to continue with appropriate study of maths beyond the end of compulsory schooling at age 16.

Use of Mathematics is designed for students with GCSE maths at grade C or above. The qualification is for those not intending to take the subject as far as GCE A-level maths, yet who would wish to understand and apply maths to a range of real situations. It will concentrate on developing process skills of application, understanding (including understanding mathematical texts written by others), reasoning, explanation and communication. Candidates will work with realistic data sets and use ICT throughout the course and its assessment. Traditional AS Mathematics has slightly more emphasis on mathematical content, but concentrates less on process skills. The demands of the two AS qualifications are similar, but the nature and assessment of the courses are different.

This AS has three components. Two of these are mandatory units, one of which, Working with Algebraic and Graphical Techniques, is also available as a Free-Standing Maths Qualifications (FSMQ). The other mandatory unit, Applying Mathematics, is a terminal unit unique to this qualification. The remaining component may be chosen from two options also offered as FSMQs, Modelling with Calculus and Using and Applying Statistics. AS Use of Mathematics will be awarded one of five pass grades A-E, or n unclassified, U.

The assessment of the FSMQ components includes two elements: coursework portfolio and written exam. For the AS Use of Mathematics students also need to complete the terminal unit. Students who decide only to complete the FSMQs will still receive certificates and UCAS points for those FSMQs. The terminal unit Applying Mathematics aims to develop:

* a working understanding of the significance of a range of mathematical models using algebraic, graphical and numerical techniques * mathematical comprehension * mathematical explanation and reasoning * mathematical communication.

In this unit, new content not found in the algebra component focuses on the simulation of random events and the use of recurrence relations to model a range of contexts.

Students will be expected to understand the key mathematical features of models presented to them, and to transfer knowledge from one context to another with the same underlying mathematics.

The assessment of the terminal unit will be entirely by written exam, including a comprehension paper.

Students awarded the AS Use of Mathematics will also be awarded level 3 Application of Number. The qualification is proxy for the whole of this key skill.

The QCA web-site at www.qca.org.uknqsubjectsas_use_mathematics.asp displays details of the terminal unit and sample assessment materials, and links to the FSMQs through www.qca.org.ukfsmu Jack Abramsky is principle subject officer for maths at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, 83 Piccadilly, London W1J 8QA. Tel: 020 7509 5555. Web: www.qca.org.uk

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