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What is the difference between Core Maths and pure maths?

Published: Sep 28, 2017 2 min read

Stephen Lyon

Mathematics Lead

National STEM Learning Centre

Teaching A level maths

I recently came across my old A level question paper. Back in those days all A level courses were linear; the first paper containing pure mathematics and the second containing the applied element.

Skip forward to curriculum 2000 when all A level examinations became modular, each consisting of six modules. The mathematics course consisted of three pure maths modules; Pure 1 (P1), Pure 2 (P2) and Pure 3 (P3) with the other three modules being a combination of what was offered by the examination board you were taking.

There was, however, a problem. There was simply too much content to deliver in the allotted time. To correct the problem the three compulsory pure modules P1, P2 and P3 were split into four modules Core 1 (C1), Core 2 (C2), Core 3 (C3) and Core (C4) with students required to take a further two applied modules to make up six modules in all. This is the system we have all been used to for the last fourteen years.

So why the history lesson? Well, a new problem has come to light. What do we call the pure element of the new linear mathematics A level that has started this September? As you know the new mathematics A level contains compulsory pure, mechanics and statistics elements. So does it matter whether we call the pure elements pure or core? Well yes, I think it does!

We have to call the pure mathematics – ‘pure mathematics’. Why? I hear you ask. Because of a problem which I encountered a little while ago. Teachers arriving at a ‘Core Maths’ CPD session expected to discuss the pure elements of the new A level. The presenter, however, was all set up to explore the new post-16 qualification ‘Core Maths’. Fortunately, the misunderstanding was soon rectified. So, if you teach maths post-16, it’s important to become familiar with the fact that pure maths is pure maths and Core Maths is something completely different.

So what is Core Maths? Core Maths is the Level 3 application of Level 2 mathematics designed for post-16 students who have gained a grade 4 (grade C in old currency) and wish to continue their mathematical study but do not want to take AS or A level mathematics.

Find out more about Core Maths

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