As part of the London Schools Excellence Fund, pfeg (Personal Finance Education Group) is working with 12 London secondary schools to explore whether the delivery of mathematics in a financial context can lead to an increase in student attainment and engagement.
Mathematics is often the subject which receives more than its fair share of ‘when am I ever going to use this in the future’ comments from students. These are fielded with an array of examples highlighting varied relevance to students at different stages of their lives. One context which students can readily relate to, and seem to freely engage with, is money and personal finance. What has not yet been explored is whether delivering mathematics in a financial context can have an impact upon attainment.
The 12 Lead Teachers are being supported by pfeg consultants to work with cohorts of KS3 and KS4 students to assess the impact on attainment and engagement of delivering mathematics using a financial context. At an initial training event in March the Lead Teachers reviewed questions with a financial context from the 2012 and 2013 GCSE Edexcel papers. The outcomes of this review were:
- The overall proportion of questions containing a financial context within the Foundation and Higher tier papers was in excess of 25%.
- For certain financial context questions the examiners comments noted that the questions were answered poorly not because of a lack in the mathematical process skills but because the students did not understand the financial context of the question.
- There is to be an increased focus on mathematical reasoning and problem solving in the new mathematics curriculum and an expectation that the number of questions with a financial context will increase.
One of the schools involved, Highgate Wood School in Haringey, has worked with Yr10 students on understanding energy tariffs, usage calculations and payment options. A baseline assessment was conducted using past GCSE questions with a focus on this financial area. The teacher then delivered sessions with a financial context covering the key topics and assessed at the end using similar GCSE past questions. The result for the group improved by 60%. Not only was there a significant improvement in attainment, but the student’s feedback on the sessions highlighted an improvement in engagement:
I don’t know how I will ever need to use things like trigonometry, but I know I will use this in the future
The lessons made it easier for me to understand the context
All the Lead Teachers are currently involved in delivering and assessing the impact on their own cohorts of students, and further data will be gathered before the end of the academic year with a view to a final report early next year. A dissemination event is being planned for November for the Lead Teachers to share their experience, knowledge and resources with other London teachers. You can keep up to date on the pfeg website, as well as exploring resources that may help you with your own financial education delivery.