The new 1-9 grade Physics GCSE will have more maths in than either Biology or Chemistry (for each single mark for maths in Biology, there will be two marks in Chemistry and three marks in Physics). So what do our physics students need to be able to do mathematically for the exams from 2018?

There are 5 areas of maths that students will be examined on in the exam (for both higher and foundation tier papers):

  1. Arithmetic & numerical computation
  2. Handling data
  3. Algebra
  4. Graphs
  5. Geometry & trigonometry

1. Arithmetic & numerical computation

Students will be required to use numbers in decimal and standard form. They will have to use ratios, fractions and percentages. They will be asked to make estimates of answers before calculating them, as a way of checking their answers are in the right ball-park.

2. Handling data

Students will be asked to use ‘appropriate’ numbers of significant figures, sometimes this number will be specified in the question. Finding the mean, mode and median of a data set will be required, along with justifying which might be the most/least appropriate to use for specific data. Drawing frequency tables, histograms, bar charts and scatter diagrams will be examined, along with identifying correlations between variables on scatter diagrams. Order of magnitude calculations and comparisons will be included.

What’s New: Frequency Tables

3. Algebra

The use of the symbols =, <, <<, >>, >, ∝, ~ is expected. Also the solving of equations involving re-arranging and substituting in quantities.

What’s New: <<, >>, ∝

4. Graphs

Using graphs to determine numeric values of variables will be examined. As will understanding the structure of a y = mx + c graph and identifying/calculating gradient and y-intercept. Students will be expected to use tangents to work out the gradient on a curved line, and work out the area under a curve by counting squares on the graph.

What’s New: y = mx + c line graphs, determining the y-intercept, using tangents to establish gradient at a point on a curved line.

5. Geometry & trigonometry

The use of degrees (not radians) to measure angles is expected. Also students will be expected to name 2D and 3D forms. They will have to be able to calculate the area of triangles and rectangles, in addition to surface area and volume of a cube.

Whilst there does not appear to be much new content, there is no higher tier only content. Thus all students could be exposed to any of the mathematical content above.

If you are teaching the AQA spec, then there are some slides here which you might find useful.

Maths for the new 1-9 Grade GCSE Physics Spec
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