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Help for Students Learning Maths in Secondary School

By Ellen, published on 27/03/2019 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.

Maths For Kids: Tips For Learning Those Times Tables!

There always seems to be a sense of apprehension surrounding multiplication tables, for children and adults. For children, being put on the spot can be quite overwhelming and for adults, it can be embarrassing when we can’t work out our times tables instantly as we feel we are expected to know how to do this by now! The truth is, however, that multiplication is a tricky concept and unless you have a very good memory, it takes a lot of practice to keep on top of the trickier ones.

Remaining confident is really important when attempting to learn your times tables, and lots and lots of practice can certainly help you to feel good about them (even if it does seem a bit tedious!). Remember though that there are many ways you can revise your multiplication tables to mix it up a bit, instead of just looking at one table again and again.

On top of setting aside as much time as you can afford on practicing, here are some more tips to help you to better engage with your times tables.

1. Understand the concept behind multiplication

Why are our times tables important? What is their purpose? What is the meaning of numbers represented? These are all questions you should begin to ask yourself because unless you really understand why the concept is so useful and important, you’ll only ever see learning about multiplication as a tedious and useless task set by your teacher. Think, for example, about how your multiplication table could help you in the real world, whether it comes into play when you are playing with toys such as Lego, working on crafts or a project that you might take in your future profession.

2. Learn to double

It may sound irrelevant, but if you can learn how to double your numbers then all of a sudden your times tables woes could be halved! For instance, the 2, 4 and 8 times tables become a whole lot easier if you realise and understand that you can simply double the answer from a simpler times table.

3. Focus on the ones you find hardest

While it is good to go over answers again and again to ensure you are retaining information, don’t waste too much time on the multiplication tables you find easy. Try spending more time on those that you find the hardest, giving them extra practice.

4. Use a grid

Do a quick Google search for a 10 x 10 grid to get a visual demonstration of how times tables relate to number sequences. If you have a photographic memory, this can be a particularly effective way of remembering your times tables. You can colour in the grid to see clear number patterns forming.

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.

Finding Help With 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.

It is impossible to become a proficient mathematician, or even to reach an intermediate level, without putting in work alongside your chosen course. This means that, no matter how good your natural flair for Maths is, you still need to brush up on the functions and equations that you will need to display in your working out during many of your future exam questions, to get you those top marks and to make your journey to GCSE Maths easier.

So, while you may have a number of other demanding subjects that you’re also trying to juggle, you should do your very best not to put Maths to one side and simply expect the skills to come naturally.

Though it may seem hard to know where to start with KS3 Maths revision, or even how to go about revising a subject that is essentially numbers used in a number of ways for a variety of functions, then revision materials should help to guide you through the revision process.

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.

BBC Bitesize is a great tool for students revising for SATs equivalents, GCSEs or A Levels in Maths as it takes the main topics covered by the various syllabi and builds on them in a way that is easy to understand.

Thanks to its categorisation, students can pick and choose which areas they focus on led by what they feel they need to improve on. Most sections are supported by examples or diagrams, which illustrate the lesson being taught.

Sometimes maths lessons 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 if 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.

Use Maths Websites to Enhance your learning

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.

Moreover, as with most subjects and courses, the best revision resources can often be found on the trusty exam boards’ websites, so it’s something worth considering! Take AQA, for instance, which has a dedicated page for assessment resources (albeit aimed at the next stage of your education – GCSE upwards).

Much like BBC Bitesize and its informative revision tools, S.cool.co.uk and StudyWise.co.uk are websites that are dedicated to students enrolled on Maths courses in the UK. They each offer revision help, broken down into categories and supported with evidence. You can register an account on each of these sites to tailor your experience with them and get extra perks to assist with your studies. These added benefits include free revision guides, question banks and resources.

Meanwhile, RevisionMaths.com is a revision site, part of the RevisionWorld.com group, which focuses entirely on the subject of Mathematics. This means that the website provides a direct route to your learning needs and covers a significant amount of related content.

Hire a Maths tutor for additional mathematics help

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.

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 an online maths tutor 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.

Superprof

Superprof, if you didn’t know, is a platform that connects diligent students to experienced tutors. Right now, it has over six million tutors across the world – offering personal tuition in over a thousand different subjects, including maths and related subjects. So, whatever it is you want to learn – whether that’s about equations or something else – you’ll find the right person for the job (and for you!) with Superprof.

Be sure to read about your prospective tutor and take advantage of the one free lesson policy so that you can get a feel for their teaching methods and work out if you think you will get along in a professional student-teacher manner.

Remember, the cost does not always reflect the person’s experience and qualifications (the cheapest tutors are not necessarily the least successful at teaching learners and the pricier ones are not always the top teachers) but, that said, you do get what you pay for so don’t be reluctant to pay for a good tutor and then complain that you haven’t learned what you had wanted to!

If you choose a tutor who does not live nearby, the chances are that they will set you work by sending you questions and tasks electronically, and will also schedule some virtual face to face catch ups via Skype or video call to ensure that you benefit from real-time interaction and instant feedback as well as simply being left to work things out for yourself.

Additional Ways To Support Learning Maths

You don’t necessarily have to spend lots of money on books and website subscriptions to get ahead with your studies, as a range of educational books (including those specially-adapted revision guides) can be borrowed from libraries in your nearby towns.

Of course, you won’t be able to make notes in the books you borrow, as they are officially the property of the library, but you can take the materials away to read or even to photocopy (many libraries offer photocopying services on site too so you could even have the opportunity to copy certain articles, exercises or definitions to put in your revision folder and go back to at a later date) and make your own revision guides.

Most libraries are open for quite long hours so you can usually find a suitable time to visit around your busy educational schedule. As mentioned, you can read and photocopy relevant materials and even try to recall items that someone else has borrowed. In addition, many libraries now offer modern digital platforms, whereby online data and journals can be accessed and viewed.

Your school may have their own library, however, you might find that the study areas get quite busy in the run up to exams. Also, the likelihood of relevant Maths books being available is quite low, since around two dozen (or more if you have a large year group) of you will all be working towards the same goal. That is why visiting libraries in and around your area is a wise idea.

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

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