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New A Level Maths : how could quadratics have changed?!

New A Level Maths : how could quadratics have changed?!

This is not me scaremongering - this is me being in awe of the positive changes coming to the new A Level Maths exams. I hope you will be too!


I was looking to find out ‘How much have things really changed?’, especially given that the content has not increased in difficulty. I knew that I needed to actually DO the questions to get to grips with how things have changed. This week I completed Specimen paper 1 of the Edexcel specification for the new A Level.

A blast from the (soon to be) past!

This is a practice question I wrote for MarkIt that would not be a surprise in recent A Level exams. Have a read and you will see there are few/no nasty bits here. In essence, this is a test of pure skill.

Very little reflection required here. At most, having to find the vertex in part (d) is a bit of a stretch but I struggle to call it a particularly ‘mean’ expectation.

Very little reflection required here. At most, having to find the vertex in part (d) is a bit of a stretch but I struggle to call it a particularly ‘mean’ expectation.

The (soon to be) present:

This question is about the trajectory of an arrow that traces a quadratic. The equation models the height reached by the arrow as the horizontal distance changes. It is fascinating how different this feels given how little has actually changed in terms of the underlying maths.

Here are the key observations

The content has not changed

Both questions test the same underlying skills of finding intercepts, completing the square and transforming a vertex of a curve. The working out for my answer to this question was not wildly different compared to that of the question above it.

A quadratic is being used here as a model within a specific context

There is a real problem to be solved in finding the maximum height of an arrow and the underlying skill here is simply to transform the vertex of a curve using previous results. Students will need to make this leap on their own.

Allocation of marks in each part is the same

This is very interesting : students are being awarded the same marks in the new spec question as they would have been in a question that contained no mathematical modelling. I suspect this is down to there being fewer marks allocated to skills based method but it still feels like more of a ‘squeeze’ than it would have been before

Making a direct comparison

Here’s a skill based comparison of the two questions done side by side. I hope that you find it interesting!

Let's Talk About Logs (in the new A Level)

Let's Talk About Logs (in the new A Level)

A guide to choosing an exam board for the new A Level Maths qualification

A guide to choosing an exam board for the new A Level Maths qualification