Bridging the Gap in Mathematics post 16.

The Problem

Every year we face the same challenge with a number of the students who have completed their compulsory mathematics and choose to study it past the age of 16, many are not ready or able to deal with the jump in effort needed to achieve a grade.

Students who have achieved the minimum requirement to study the subject in our sixth form often have large gaps in understanding or have taken a pragmatic approach to learning mathematics for their exam so they do not retain much of the content expected for the next level.

We have tried to address this in a number of ways:

  • Summer induction day
  • Summer work
  • Bridging the gap test in September
  • Extra classes in September
  • Honest and frank discussions with students and parents

All of these are focused on getting the student to realise the challenge ahead of them. Many don’t react to this, we said GCSE would be hard and they pulled it out last minute so they assume it will work again.

There are a number of issues at play

  • Spoon-feeding at GCSE
  • Intervention that removes responsibility
  • Teaching style to a very mixed ability class
  • Motivation to study independently

I am not writing this to open a wider discussion but to catalogue my efforts to work on this with the use of technology for learning.

My Solution

In order to differentiate I am going to introduce a flipped classroom aspect to the course I deliver to my Pure mathematics group this coming academic year. This will involve providing videos to learn the basics and use lesson time to develop the application of the skills. I was about to proceed and develop a site or blog for the students to follow when Oli Trussell released a new add on for Google Sheets. It is based on some script he wrote for his own school. I will let him explain the rest…

The new add on “Super Quiz” has the potential for me to prepare for my own class and produce something for the whole faculty to use at the beginning of the year to assess the understanding of our students and focus on the areas they need support with.

Oli has created a site to lead users through the Super Quiz add on step by step and this is how I have been creating the questions. To help other maths teachers I created this template as I want the rest of the faculty to submit a set of questions for a topic each so we can start to create a resource to be used throughout the year. I have found that by creating expressions using the g(math) add on you get a link to the image, which is useful.

Here is an introduction to g(math)

BREAK – stopped writing and actually did it…

It took me half a day to create the form with 16 questions related to prior knowledge essential to begin A-level maths in UK. To the forms necessary to use it prior to each topic for the entire year I would need to repeat this for aproximately 16 topic areas. So in theory that is 8 days work.

We can now get an idea, per class, of the level of understanding the students are beginning with them from their long summer break and plan around their strengths and weaknesses. Now I need to convince the rest of my faculty to put in a day and we can have this knowledge all year.


As with anything in education someone will want to see the impact, which could come in several forms:

  • Improved grades
  • Fewer drop out later in the year
  • More drop earlier and swap courses
  • Teachers adapt their planning based on the data
  • Students independent study improves (tricky to measure)

I will let you all know how it goes.

The Super Quiz add on can be used to create pre-topic assessments from primary to secondary and is a great tool for flipping instruction and improving teacher’s assessment for learning in order to personalise learning in their classes.



Ben Rouse

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