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Help for Students Learning Maths in Secondary School

By Ellen, published on 03/08/2017 Blog > Academia > Maths > Learning Maths at Key Stage 3: What to Expect

Key Stage 3 (commonly abbreviated to KS3) consists of years seven, eight and nine – so students from ages eleven to fourteen in secondary school in the UK.

KS3 school maths is a pretty big and sometimes challenging journey, starting from year seven and ending in year nine before you embark upon maths GCSE, which is one of the mandatory subjects to take at GCSE in the UK.

The jump from KS2 in primary school doesn’t have to be too scary, as you will be eased in at a comfortable pace, just building on from what you have been studying in your year six maths lessons.

Key stage 3 maths is about learning to interconnect mathematical concepts that pupils can move between with ease and fluency. Being able to identify patterns and overlapping concepts in maths topics is key to KS3 progression.

Although the maths topics in years seven, eight and nine are presented as distinct from one another on the school syllabus, students should be able to make connections across the topics and build upon prior key stage 2 knowledge to develop confidence and fluency in maths study.

KS3 maths will also help pupils develop their mathematical reasoning and maths problem solving to a higher, more sophisticated level. Students will find that KS3 maths will enter into other subjects, applicable to science, ICT and geography, for example.

Watch how maths can crop up in day to day life! KS3 maths can be applied to many subjects! Photo credit: Tim Geers via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-SA

Math Concepts in The KS3 Maths Curriculum

Some of the maths you will learn during KS3 will be applicable to the sciences in particular, so it is really important to stay engaged with maths lessons so that you can understand some of the more challenging topics in physics, chemistry and biology.

KS3 maths topics according to the UK national curriculum include:

  • Algebra
  • Shape, space and measures
  • Numbers, addition and subtraction
  • Handling data and statistics
  • Functional maths
  • Geometry

Within these topics are lots of subtopics, all of which are broken down in class and will usually have individual lessons. These topics can also be found online, for maths revision and extra study.

KS3 maths lessons are where you’ll start seeing more difficult maths and mathematical theory. Subjects you might not be familiar with such as trigonometry, Pythagoras, equations, probability, coordinates, powers and roots, and angles are all examples of maths that you will start learning.

These can be quite tough sometimes, but your teachers will ease you in slowly and you’ll start noticing how these topics build on from your current maths knowledge from primary school and help prepare you for GCSE and A-level maths.

Maths lessons at KS3 will get more and more challenging as you progress, so it’s important to keep up as much as you can and try to do some extra work at home if possible as well to help you get your head around things.

There are lots of maths games and quizzes available online to help with difficult concepts, which can make learning maths easier and more fun.

One of the most crucial things to learn during KS3 – if you haven’t already! – is your times tables. All of the work covered will rely on basic maths knowledge, and knowing your multiplications will help you no end when it comes to the trickier stuff.

Key Stage 3 Maths Exams

There is no longer a formative assessment for KS3 as part of the national curriculum. Students used to take regulated exams in secondary school to determine their academic level before moving up to the next year group, such as year eight SATs.

The assessments carried out during KS3 are up to the individual school to decide on. They could be tests, coursework or a more formal exam paper, but it is something that the school itself will determine, not a national exam board.

This can be a great thing, as there is usually much less pressure both on the school and the pupils, and the assessment can be carried out less formally altogether.

It does mean, however, that there is not a lot of specific guidance for any given tests or coursework – students will need to seek help and study tools from the school itself or use their initiative to find appropriate resources online or in the library.

Any tests that pupils undergo during key stage 3 are helpful for teachers, pupils and parents to monitor how the pupil is doing academically.

Pupils could have termly tests to regularly give teachers an idea of how they are engaging in lessons and progressing with their studies. On the other hand, students might only face a test or piece of coursework to complete at the end of the school year.

The tests will help show the student’s understanding of a subject, identify any problem areas, and start preparing students for GCSE by giving them a rough feel of what to expect.

With some tests, students will be able to get used to how GCSE papers look and familiarise themselves with the style of questions and the command words used.

So it’s important to remember that any coursework or tests a pupil will have to do during KS3 is to help identify their strengths and weaknesses and how they have engaged with the course so far, in order to progress to the next level of education.

How to Tackle Math Problems During KS3 

If you’re finding KS3 maths particularly hard, no matter what year you’re in at secondary school, there are lots of ways to deal with the problem.

Don't let panic or confusion get the better of you! Is maths revision frustrating you? Photo via VisualHunt.com

As you progress through years seven, eight and nine, you’ll find that the maths naturally gets more and more challenging, but this doesn’t have to be frightening! If you keep up with your lessons and homework, it can be easy to stay on top of things.

That said, sometimes it’s easy to fall behind and then a struggle to catch up with maths. Maybe you found the jump from KS2 to KS3 was a bit much for you? Or perhaps you’re half way through year nine and it’s all getting a bit too complicated?

No matter where you are along the way in KS3, there are lots of helpful resources to explore, such as in the library or online.

Maths Revision Resources

Websites such as BBC Bitesize or MyMaths (if your school has an account) contain the entire syllabus for KS3 Maths, along with all other subjects and levels such as GCSE maths revision. If you feel like you might need a bit of guidance and oversight of your syllabus, these sites can be a really great help.

Sometimes maths lesson can seem especially difficult in the transition to GCSE, which is also referred to as Key Stage 4. This is where pupils are expected to have quite a high level of mathematical confidence and fluency, and the ability to notice patterns and apply maths concepts across various situations.

This can be really tough for some students, especially is you feel as though you aren’t catching up in time to move on to the next level of education. But fear not – there are many ways to start boosting your confidence and filling in the blanks of your maths knowledge.

As we’ve seen, there are lots of options of websites that can provide help and study aid if you’re falling behind. The trick is to try and make maths as fun as possible! Check out those websites along with any others that look exciting and see how you get on.

You could also look at some websites that offer maths games too. These will help you tackle challenges you’re facing in harder topics, but will make the concepts easier to grasp and put into practical use.

If you’re really struggling with maths lessons at school and you feel like extra study on your own isn’t helping or resolving the issue, you might have a think about hiring a private tutor.

Hire a Maths tutor for additional mathematics help

A home maths tutor can often be the best way to help you out with challenges you’re facing in the classroom or with school curriculum in general. Many students find that with large class sizes and the pressure to learn a lot of topics in a relatively short period of time, it can be really easy to feel lost. Face to face or online maths tutors can talk you through all the topics or concepts you find particularly difficult, at a pace and through exercises that suit your way of learning.

Searching for maths tutors near me can provide a wealth of results so you’re sure to find the right tutor; don’t be afraid to find someone who matches your exact needs and ways of learning.

As we’ve seen, maths can appear in other subjects that pupils will study during key stage 3. Certain topics in chemistry, physics, biology will no doubt contain some maths, and subjects such as ICT, geography or business, for example, could also contain some mathematical situations as well.

So keeping up to speed and staying engaged with maths lessons isn’t just important for your mathematical progression alone. It will help immensely with subjects across KS3 study, especially with the natural sciences which will start containing more and more maths in the run up to GCSE.

Get your head down for a great pay-off! KS3 maths revision can benefit your other subjects too! Photo credit: CollegeDegrees360 via VisualHunt / CC BY-SA

The maths involved with physics, chemistry and biology can be quite tricky and requires extra attention sometimes. Pupils will see overlaps in these syllabi, and should therefore seek help or guidance as needed with any maths that seems challenging, regardless of the subject.

Discover how useful maths can be in life and why you should consider studying it.


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