Now is the time when we seem to forget everything else we are doing and all things focus on year 11 and GCSE revision.
At the end of the day of course it is our students who actually need to do the revision, but we need to be mindful that many of them may still not really be clear on how to revise.
We also have the problem that much research shows that students are not good at recognising the most effective learning strategies, and the activities that they tend to favour are not necessarily those that give the best results (eg (1) Adams et al, 2014). My first tip for maths revision therefore would be to explain this to your students - learning is hard, and if it feels easy it is probably because you are not learning as much!
Analogies are also useful to help students understand what they should be doing and why. Imagine if you were about to run a long distance race, say a half marathon. You would start your training well in advance of the race, you’d build up your distance and the number of runs you do each week, and by the time you reached race day you would be very comfortable running the 13.1 miles (21 km) required. You wouldn’t leave it all until the last minute, just trying on your new trainers the week before the race! It is the same with revision: little and often is the best way to go about it.
For maths I propose that there should be two main aspects to revision for maths GCSE.
1. Learning facts
2. Practicing questions
All of this should of course start well in advance of the exam, and revision should be seen as an ongoing task with students aiming to be doing a little bit of maths each day for as long as possible before exams start. Imagine how much they will already know if they do this from the start of the GCSE course!
Encourage them to then timetable in two or three longer sessions each week for practicing questions as the exams get closer, and get them to do some past papers under exam conditions – that is without stopping to check the answers.
By breaking down revision for maths and for other subjects into manageable chunks students will give themselves the best possible chance of succeeding.
Lead Practitioner for Maths, The Sir Robert Woodard Academy Assistant Maths Hub Lead, Sussex Maths Hub Evidence Lead in Education, Durrington Research School
(1) Adams, D. M., McLaren, B. M., Durkin, K., Mayer, R. E., Rittle-Johnson, B., Isotani, S., & van Velsen, M. (2014). Using erroneous examples to improve mathematics learning with a web-based tutoring system. Computers in Human Behavior, 36, 401-411. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.03.053