KS3 Maths Explained

When children move into secondary school, they enter a new stage of learning. Key Stage 3 or KS3 covers years 7,8 and 9 of secondary school and children that are in KS3 will study 12 compulsory subjects, including maths.


The term KS3 is derived from the education act 2002 as the time at which the majority of pupils are 12 at the beginning of the school year and 14 by the end of the school year. As such, it will usually cover the first three years of secondary education. However, it is possible for elements of this stage to begin earlier. This is possible by teaching the curriculum over two years rather than three which some schools are choosing to do.


There is no set requirement from the government as to how many hours per week should be devoted to subjects. However, according to the Qualifications and Curriculum Agency (QCA), schools should focus on providing three hours of maths each week.


Usually, maths will be taught by a teacher who specializes in that particular subject, however this isn’t always the case. It’s also possible that one teacher will be responsible for completing lessons on multiple sujbjects.


Maths is considered a core subject. As such, by year 7, children will be taught in sets or streams rather than as a mixed ability group. Children will typically be assessed for these groups with cognitive abilities tests during the first term of year 7. Other schools use KS2 SATs to determine the streams for KS3 and certain schools might have their own tests that will determine what maths group a child will be put in.


What Do Students Learn?


KS3 maths can be quite challenging for some children and the last step before maths GCSE. This is a mandatory GCSE subject, so it’s important that children do understand what to expect here.


KS3 maths builds on what was already established in year 6 maths lessons. However, there is a greater focus on interconnecting concepts and ensuring that students can move between them freely. It’s essential that students learn how to recognise patterns as well as overlapping concepts if they are to progress.


This helps students develop confidence as well as fluency in maths. KS3 is also designed to help ensure that mathematical reasoning as well as problem solving both reach higher levels. The aim here is to ensure that the knowledge acquired can be used in subjects such as geography as well as IT.


What Maths Topics Are Covered?


Much of what is learned during KS3 maths can be applied to the three core sciences. As such, it’s important that students have a firm grasp of the various topics. They provide the building blocks for some of the more challenging concepts. According to the UK national curriculum KS3 topics should include:


  • Functional maths
  • Geometry
  • Handling data and statistics
  • Numbers, addition, and subtraction
  • Shape, space, measurements
  • Algebra


Some of these topics such as algebra will be introduced and expanded upon through KS4.


There is also a range of subtopics for each topic too. These will be broken down in class and will usually consist of individual lessons. For instance, KS3 number includes:


  • Place value
  • Positive and negative integers, decimals, and fractions
  • Powers and roots
  • Percentages
  • Approximation and estimation
  • Using calculators to solve problems
  • The four operations (multiply, divide, add, subtract)


KS3 algebra covers topics such as:


  • Simplification
  • Interpreting algebraic notation
  • Linear equations
  • Graphs of linear and quadratic functions
  • Arithmetic and geometric sequences


KS3 statistics also has topics like:


  • Ensuring students can describe mathematical relationships between different variables
  • Interpreting and constructing frequency tables, pie charts, bar charts, and scatter graphs
  • Mode, median, range as well as the spread of outliers


The topics can be discovered online so that students can complete additional levels of study and gain the extra tuition that they may need in key areas.


KS3 introduces more difficult mathematical concepts and theory. This includes:


  • Trigonometry
  • Pythagoras
  • Equations
  • Probability
  • Power and roots
  • Angles
  • Coordinates


These are just some examples of the topics that will be covered. Teachers will ease students in slowly and build from the knowledge that they gained through primary school learning.


One of the most important elements to learn through KS3 is multiplication. The core skills provide the basis of KS3 which can be built upon and developed under the guidance of a skilled teacher.


Students will utilize a range of schools and tools during this stage. For instance, they can rely on both written and mental methods for solving problems as well as calculators. They may even use ICT tools such as spreadsheets. Lessons will be linked to other subjects as well as the skills they can use in their life.


KS3 Maths Exams


As it stands, there is currently no formative assessment for any KS3 subject as part of the national curriculum.


Originally, students did take regulated exams in secondary school. This was used to check their academic level before moving to the next year. An example of this would be the year eight SATs.


Now, schools determine what individual assessments will be carried out during KS3.


It’s possible that this might take the form of:


  • Tests
  • Coursework
  • A formal exam


This will be up to the school to determine rather than the national exam board.


There are numerous benefits to this system. Less pressure is put on the pupils and the schools and the assessments don’t need to be as formal. However, there’s limited guidance on tests or coursework. As such, students may be required to use their intuition to gain the information they need.


Most schools do use some tests for KS3 maths to assess the children’s progresss. They are useful for the teacher, pupils, and parents. In some schools, ther will be termly tests while others may only have one test at the end of the school year.


Externally marked tests were abandoned in 2009 and since then performance has been recorded through on-going teacher assessments. The results of each school are then published in performance tables that are accessible.



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