The five different topics

So in the last blog we talked about the maths exam – and in particular; what’s in it! We covered the fact the exams contain 5 main topics …

  1. Number
  2. Algebra
  3. Ratio, Proportion, Rates of Change
  4. Geometry
  5. Probability and Statistics

However, unless you’re a maths teacher, this may well mean absolutely zero to you and it’s as useful as a chocolate teapot! So in this blog we’re going to decode the jargon – and break down all the words so you know exactly what it means!

Lets start with the first one – Number. In the foundation tier, this is one of the two biggest areas they emphasize; the exam boards want students to know and understand all things about numbers. This topic includes things such as understanding the signs of addition (+), subtraction (-), multiplication (x) and division (although I can’t find a divide sign on my keyboard)! They also want students to know what a prime number is or how to work out a highest common factor (HCF). Also included in this topic are fractions, decimals and percentages to name just a few! If you’ve had a look at our website, you’ll notice that one of the boxes from Tutor In A Box is all about fractions. This isn’t simply luck – we’ve planned it to come under the number topic!

Looking at the second one which is Algebra this includes all things related to letters (and they like to use x and y a lot). You need to understand how to simplify terms (that just means collecting similar terms together), how to multiply out brackets (i.e. get rid of the brackets) and how to put in brackets (called factorising). Additionally, topics such as changing the subject of the formulae (when you make a different letter appear at the front) and simultaneous equations (when you have two equations) come up.

Side note… At this point, you might be completely lost! (And you’d be forgive for briefly thinking I’ve done a terrible job at explaining all of these). The reason I’ve started to use some of the official terms is that if a child mentions a topic, at least you’ll have some vague recollection of it!

So, onto the third topic – Ratio, Proportion, Rates of Change. This topic is all about ratios – and changing a cake recipe from 2 people to 6 people, or working out the size of a real life train, given a model scale! There’s quite a few ‘real-life’ type questions that come up in this section – for example a question might ask you to split a quantity of something (usually dividing money / marbles / sweets between three different people unfairly).

Almost there – the fourth point is Geometry. This one is about shapes and angles and all things like that! It includes knowing the different types of shapes (such as an equilateral triangle compared to an isosceles triangle) and the different properties they have (for example an equilateral triangle has all lengths and angles the same, whereas in an isosceles triangle only two lengths are the same). You’ll notice here at Tutor In A Box that one of the boxes we’ve produced is all about angles – no surprise then that the box falls under the geometry heading!

Finally, topic 5 – Probability and Statistics. For some reason (and you can discuss between yourselves why), this is an area that I think is pretty poorly taught in schools. Maybe because it’s seen as the ‘easier’ topic or maybe because it has the least weighting. Who knows?! Anyway, this is all about chances, and the likelihood of something happening. And I think it is a SUPERB topic to teach! I absolutely love probability and statistics and find it so interesting working these things out (in my first year of uni in one of my lectures we worked out the probability of winning the lottery – roughly 1 in 14 million in case you wanted to know). And guess what? We’ve got a box all about probability and statistics too … 

So, there it is – the five different maths topics, with five different bits of information! Hopefully this has given you a bit of an understanding as to what the different topics mean, and what they cover and will provide some useful insight (!).