# Category: Maths Tools

# Good luck to everyone taking maths exams in the next few weeks!

## Good Luck over the coming weeks!

## Here are a few exam pointers that will help you to make the most of each exam:

### Before the exam:

- Get a good night’s sleep before the exam
- Have a nourishing breakfast in the morning (and lunch, if your exam is in the afternoon)
- Make sure you have the right tools for your exam. Do you need your calculator? Tracing paper? Compasses?
- Arrive in plenty of time so that you can enter the exam hall feeling calm and composed.

### During the exam:

- Read ALL the instructions on the front page.
- Work through the questions methodically, allowing time to check over your answers before the exam finishes.
- Read each question carefully
- Show ALL your working, step by step
- Draw graphs and diagrams IN PENCIL
- Write your answer in the space provided, using the correct:
- format (were you asked to give the equation of a line in the form ax+by+c=0, or y=mx+c?)
- units (should your calculator be in degrees or radians mode? did you convert all measurements to cm or m?)
- accuracy (significant figures, decimal places)

- check your answer where possible (e.g. if you solved for x, check the LHS and RHS of your equation!)

- Remain relaxed during the exam – if a question makes you feel anxious, skip it and come back to it later

## If you start to panic: STOP. Put down your pen, rest your hands and look straight ahead. Take a couple of deep, calming breaths. Remind yourself that you can get through this better if you just relax.

- Check through your answers at the end – many silly mistakes can be fixed at this time

### After the exam:

- Relax. DON’T dwell on what you might have done right or wrong.
- Take a moment to be proud of yourself for trying your best.
- Move on to revision for your next exam.

Please also read this BBC Article about general exam technique for some pointers.

# Tools: What Should A Pencil Case Contain?

## Having a pencil case stocked with the right tools is a great starting point.

At school, it ensures that valuable learning time, when the teacher is explaining a new method for example, is not wasted whispering to friends, asking to borrow a pen, or a pencil, or a ruler. At home, it ensures that homework is quicker to complete, with fewer delays rooting round the house for bits and pieces.

Essential items that every student should have in their pencil case include:

- 2 pencils (preferably use retractable pencils to avoid the hassle of sharpening)
- 2 pens (one black, one blue – buy rollerballs if possible)
- 1 eraser (Maped are very good quality)
- 1 pencil sharpener (unless the pencils are automatic)
- 1 30cm ruler (shatterproof)
- 1 GCSE level calculator (preferably the Casio FX85GTPlus, or similar)
- 1 protractor (preferably 360 degrees)
- A pair of compasses with suitable pencil

Having the right tools increases confidence, and self-esteem. It reaffirms in each child, the notion that learning, and studying, are important. By starting to take responsibility for bringing the right tools to school, students begin to take responsibility for their own learning.

# Tools: Casio FX-85GTPLUS

If your child is in secondary school, working towards a Maths GCSE’s (or A level) and does not have this calculator, then I strongly suggest you buy it.

## Yes, it is a £10 investment (cheaper if you shop around), but it is worth every penny.

I will attempt to list out some of the reasons why you should spend the money:

- The maths teacher at school will be familiar with this calculator – or something very very similar. This means that every new maths topic taught in class will probably include instructions on how to do it using THIS calculator. If your child has a different calculator, they will be busy trying to interpret the teacher’s instructions and become unnecessarily flustered.
- This calculator is easy to use for predictably right answers. I wish this wasn’t the case – I hate it when one product dominates the market – but there is a good reason why this calculator is the most popular. I have had three students turn up with different calculators in the past six months alone (I won’t mention the brands) and in every case, I have been able to demonstrate how the Casio calculator makes it easier to get the right answer, and to fix problems when they make a mistake.
- Most school shops will sell this calculator – this means that you should be able to pick it up quite easily and for a reasonable price. It is also the most common GCSE Maths calculator that is available from local supermarkets, and stationery shops.
- Technology matters – we are not in an era of slide rules. Our children are part of an ever-more technical world, and when they enter the working world, confidence with technological tools will be important. I do not subscribe to the notion that only Mental Maths is good – being good at using technology to solve problems is important – I personally feel that calculator skills are more important than being able to use a pair of compasses, or a protractor. It will certainly be more relevant long-term to the majority of students, than these engineering tools.

If your child spends his/her high school years learning maths with this calculator, then by the time they come to sit their exams, they will be able to maximise their performance, through confident knowledge of how to use the many features.

I have experienced countless “Wow!” moments, where a student cannot believe how much easier it is to do something on this calculator than they had previously thought. This contributes to confidence with maths, and improved performance in exams. Much as I am cynical of our national over-emphasis on exam performance, as parents and teachers, we are all striving to give our children the best future we can – and good exam results are part of that!

# Website: Maths Net A Level

PROs

- Great selection of A level questions
- Good categorisation by exam paper and topic
- Students can follow step by step solutions
- Students can try the same question several times, with different numbers, to consolidate understanding

CONs

- Sometimes the solutions are a bit contrived – automation means that either the question doesn’t quite make sense with the numbers used, or the solutions are not the most elegant
- The tool is only available if the student attends a school/college willing to pay the subscription fee
- There is no individual record of progress, or of questions answered correctly, for students to keep track of what they have or have not covered
- The website design is not easy on the eye – navigation is clunky and the student is often thrown back to the beginning, having to reselect exam paper, topic, category etc all over again.

# Website: My Maths

MyMaths is a great tool, both for teachers and students. Most parents will be familiar with the website because many children are assigned homework on it, regularly.

PROs

- A great way for children to learn topics they haven’t understood, in their own time.
- Easy to keep track of scores for each topic so that students can revisit topics that they have struggled with.
- Easy for parents to get an overview of what homeworks their children have done and to what standard.
- Immediate online marking means children do not have to wait for the teacher to tell them how well they did.
- Unlimited re-tries of a homework, with re-marking, means that children can be self-motivated to improve on their scores.

CONs

- Students need to remember their school login / password AND their own login / password.
- Homeworks can be awkward, particularly anything to do with measuring lengths, angles etc.
- Sometimes the methods used do not match up with the method taught at school
- It is not clear which topics are in scope for a particular Examination board, so students may lose confidence when they see topics that they cannot do, but are not relevant to them.