Big Fat Maths!

The new GCSEs are set to come into force from September 2015; with the first set of examinations due in the summer of 2017. The massively expanded syllabus has been dubbed ‘Big Fat Maths’!

This is the biggest shake-up in the secondary education system since the introduction of the GCSEs back in 1988. GCSEs replaced the old ‘O’ level examination system because it was thought not to cater for the less able pupils. In the early days of GCSEs a significant number of subjects included a high degree of coursework. This proved to be contentious as there was potentially no control over how much parental or teacher input was allowed. Year on year more and more pupils were passing GCSE with higher grades; thus leading to critics saying that exam papers were getting easier and subject matter was being ‘dumbed down’.

Our standings in the international league table (Pisa rankings) have stagnated[i], with the UK failing to make the top 20 in maths, reading and science. The new GCSE curriculum is intended by those in Whitehall to help rectify this.

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Practical uses of mathematics

Tim Prentice – BSc (Chemistry, Computer Science), NZCE Int (Engineering)

Whilst I enjoyed mathematics in school, it wasn’t until I could see the application in real world scenarios that I started to fully appreciate it. Learning about second derivatives to calculate the curvature of car panels or using the wavelength of sound and speaker dimensions to calculate the ideal speaker box were things I would never think of at school. Until I did a University Engineering Mathematics paper that is. I would’ve been much more interested in mathematics if I knew its application from an earlier date.

My career was to eventually fall into computer software development. Where maths and logic takes a crucial role between what is good written software and what is not.

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Mathematics in the real world

An article by Dr. Jamal Uddin, University of Birmingham

What is the relationship between determining whether your cereal remains crunchy and does not become soggy when lying in a bowl of milk, making chocolate Easter eggs, or in producing a uniform coating on your plasma TV screen or even determining the size of harmful pathogens in a sample of blood? The answer, and perhaps rather surprisingly, is mathematics. These are only a sample of problems that utilise the vast power of mathematical modelling. Almost every industry you can imagine will at some point require specialist mathematicians who will be able to simulate the problem at hand and produce answers to questions, which at times, are almost impossible to answer through experiments. A case study helps to identify exactly what mathematicians do and I have chosen this one as it is related to some of the work I am involved in.

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