It’s certainly not obvious upon first inspection. In fact, Specialist Maths is designed to be harder than Methods.
So why is it that so many students find Methods to be the tougher one? It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.
It all comes down to context
There’s no denying that the Maths concepts taught in Specialist are harder than those taught in Methods. There are around half a dozen completely new ideas that are taught.
Methods, on the other hand, is almost entirely content that has been seen before. Around half of the course content uses ideas, concepts and knowledge from past years.
Which is both a blessing and a curse for Methods.
In theory, it makes Methods easier.
But the fact is, in reality, most students don’t remember the content that they are supposed to remember.
Which means that students are trying to work without the background knowledge that they need.
“You already know this, so I’ll skim over it”
A favourite line of teachers. And while that might be true in a perfect fairy tale…
It’s not true in real life.
But because of this “assumed knowledge”, Methods dives much deeper. It begins to manipulate the information in order to create challenging problem solving and application questions. Questions that are ultimately challenging students on a level that is often far beyond what is expected.
Specialist is all new
Which means there is a huge volume of content to learn. Which is tough.
But it also means that assessors tend to back off a little in terms of the tricky problem-solving questions. With so much new content in Specialist Maths, the emphasis is often on simply understanding concepts; Methods is more about a depth of understanding and problem-solving.
In Specialist, the Maths is harder… In Methods, the problems themselves are harder
And in general, students have more difficulty with application or “problem-solving” questions than they do with the numbers themselves. Which can lead many students (especially the ones who study both types of Maths) to find their Methods work significantly more tedious and challenging than their Specialist homework.
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