Edexcel Maths Foundation GCSE – Getting Started
So you’re taking Edexcel Maths Foundation GCSE, and you’re looking to achieve the best grade possible?
The first thing to think about is what lies in your future past GCSEs. If you intend to take a course that requires a lot of mathematics at university, then you probably will need to take A-Level mathematics. If you intend to take A level mathematics, you need to consider taking higher GCSE mathematics, as colleges generally will not allow you to take A-Level without achieving at least a grade 7 in mathematics.
What’s the highest grade you can achieve in Foundation Maths?
Foundation GCSEs cap your maximum grade at a 5, so it is important to bear this in mind. Schools will naturally point you towards either foundation or higher GCSEs, depending on your current level, but this does not mean your opinion is irrelevant. I know quite a few students in year 9 and 10, who want to take higher if possible, and have significantly raised their game in order to be in the position to take the higher paper. A grade 4 or 5, is a passing grade, however, if a student gets graded a 1, 2, or 3, this is a failing grade.
Take a look at the free foundation mathematics topic list to see how many of the skills you need to work towards mastering:
Edexcel Maths Foundation GCSE – The Basics of Calculation
The Edexcel Maths Foundation GCSE is often underestimated. Although the GCSE does not contain the same depth and breadth of content as a higher GCSE, the questions in the exams sometimes require a great deal of thought. They often have a multi-step component and require students to break down problems into chunks in order to solve them. In fact, the current GCSE is a lot more difficult than the foundation papers of the past.
Having said this, getting the basics of calculation down is extremely important. On countless occasions, I have met foundation students who have either long-forgotten the basics of long multiplication, long division, decimal addition and subtraction etc. Foundation students also often struggle with fractions, decimals and percentages (even some higher entrants forget these basics).
Edexcel Maths Foundation GCSE – Starting out
My first port of call with new foundation maths students, tend to revolve around these basics, as without a strong understanding of calculation, it will be impossible for them to progress through the paper without a catalogue of errors.
It is important for foundation students to also focus on their basic primary knowledge of shapes and angles. What are the properties of an isosceles triangle? How many sides does a hexagon have? What is the difference between a parallelogram and a rhombus?
As schools spend a lot of time wishing to press forward and work on the more advanced topics, this basic knowledge tends to be neglected. As a foundation student, you should try to take on the responsibility of shoring up these basics as much as possible.
Edexcel Maths Foundation GCSE – Calculation Practice
A really excellent resource for these basics are Peter Robson series:
His books provide a fantastic platform for students who are looking to build their basic skills. Although the books are catered towards independent school and 11 plus extry, they are really useful for KS3 and GCSE students who need to sharpen their foundations. We actually take a great deal of inspiration in our own tuition practice from Peter Robson.
The two aspects that really appeal to me about the series are:
1. Adequate question practice
Peter Robson did not hold back when it came down to provide enough questions. There are thousands of questions in the series, and he helpfully breaks down each set of questions by difficulty.
2. Breakdowns of each teaching point
I absolutely love the way Peter Robson breaks down each method in his books. He provides a no-nonsense approach that can sometimes appeal to the older students,
In terms of negatives, the only real ones I can think of are that the material tends to be extremely dry. I would also comment that he does not really offer multiple strategies for working out problems. However, the question practice alone is probably reason enough to invest in his books.
Edexcel Maths Foundation GCSE – Organisation
If you were to ask me what separates top students from the rest, I would not say intelligence or natural ability (even though this can be very important at a higher level). I believe that the two most important characteristics are interest-level and organisation. Those who are interested in learning mathematics generally work harder, as the work means more to them. Many foundation students are not fond of mathematics, but there is one aspect well within their control: organisation.
Students who are able to keep their workings carefully organised, do not get lost in problems.
For instance, take a look at the two examples below (November 2018 Paper 1):
Which one is more organised? I’ve seen so many instances where a foundation student’s work resembles the work on the bottom rather than the top. Note that higher students should also try to be as organised as possible when setting out their answers.
Building good habits and keeping organised is extremely important for those who want to become the best mathematicians possible. Our mathematics tutors always remind students to be as clear as possible when setting out their answers.
GCSE Edexcel Maths Foundation – Becoming Comfortable with Algebra
Many students who come to us for tuition, really struggle when it comes to algebraic concepts. Perhaps most notably, rearranging/changing the subject in a formula is something that needs special attention.
It is useful for students to spend time thinking about situations where they work to find an unknown value.
5 + __ = 30
__ – 12 = 25
3(_) + 4 =
9 + _(5) = 54
These number-bond problems help students understand that they have been working with unknown values throughout most of their mathematical life.
Balance problems also help students understand the concept of an equation; that both sides need to be equal. They also help students work visually before they start working with the abstract.
These problems can get far more difficult, but even in their simplest forms, they can help students gain a better understanding of how equations are put together.
Once these pre-algebriac concepts are in place, it becomes easier to introduce students to additional concepts.
These include ideas such as:
- Collecting like terms
- Expanding and factorising
- Working with indices
- Forming expressions
- Basic rearranging
- Advanced rearranging
- Expanding and factorising to solve equations
- Expanding and factorising quadratics
- Solving simultaneous equations
Algebra is not only useful when questions explicitly ask for a student to solve an equation or form an expression; it can be used to solve problems that make no mention of algebra.
Example (November 2018 Paper 1):
Useful Resources for GCSE Edexcel Maths Foundation
There are a great deal of useful resources geared to help you excel in GCSE. I have sub-divided them into sections to make it slightly easier to follow:
We recommend the Essential Maths series as the main learning textbook. It has a friendly, and easy-to-follow layout. There are also a few exam style questions at the end of each chapter, that provide students essential test practice.
If you need a book to become more accustomed to the Edexcel style of questions, the Edexcel endorsed textbook is the one to go with. I would suggest using the Essential Maths textbooks to begin with, before moving onto the Edexcel endorsed textbooks.
We recommend the CGP test papers for mathematics and well as the Revise series:
As the exam approaches, make use of the various past papers, specimen and sample papers which are freely available. We have compiled them to make file management a thing of beauty:
Edexcel Maths Foundation GCSE Sample Papers
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For many students, achieving a 4 or 5 on your Edexcel Foundation Maths GCSE will give you access to a greater range of options, than if you end up failing with a grade of 1-3. Some colleges will be seeking students who have achieved passing grades, or may even only select candidates who have even higher grades.
I think at a young age, it is important for you to have as many doors open to you as possible so that there is the possibility to take on opportunities that you may not consider at the time. As foundation mathematics deals with many concepts that are used in real life, and may even appear in selection tests for jobs, it is important for you to work hard towards the qualification.
Try to take the opportunity to retake the qualification at college, rather than accept a grade 1, 2, or 3.
Failing at foundation, however, does not mean that you will be out of options. There are quite a few apprentice schemes that still accept people who do not achieve the qualification. It is important to emphasise, however, that not achieving GCSE qualifications, will always limit your options for employment, so you will have to develop other skills that make up for this weakness.
Click the link, and you will be able to find more information on getting apprenticeships without formal qualifications.