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GCSE from 2010 | Mathematics

Functional maths in GCSE

1. What are functional elements in GCSE Mathematics?

Edexcel GCSE specifications refer to functional elements rather than functional skills because their coverage is greater than that of functional skills.

The emphasis in both is on the demonstration of process skills in realistic contexts, but in contexts that must be appropriate to 15/16-year-olds (and older).

Examples would be timetables, scale drawings, cost comparisons, summaries and representations of data, wages and expenses. At Higher tier this could include proportionality, masses and volumes of similar shapes, trigonometry and calculations of surface areas.

The process skills are:

  • representing a problem
  • analysing the problem
  • interpreting a solution to the problem.

These are assessed on Edexcel’s functional skills papers and new GCSE Mathematics examination papers.

2. How many marks will there be for functional elements in the exam?

The foundation papers/units will be written so that 30-40% of the marks can be identified as addressing functional elements. This will be 20-30% at Higher tier.

The tables below show the range of marks that will have functionality for each of the papers/units.

Specification A 

 Paper  Total number of marks Number of marks
assessing functional elements
 Foundation Paper 1 100  30-40
 Foundation Paper 2 100 30-40
 Higher Paper 1 100 20-30
 Higher Paper 2 100  20-30

Specification B

 Unit  Total number of marks Number of marks
assessing functional elements
 Foundation Unit 1 60 18-24
Foundation Unit 2 60 18-24
Foundation Unit 3  80 24-32
Higher Unit 1 60 12-18
Higher Unit 2  60 12-18
Higher Unit 3 80 16-24

3. What will the questions be like?

In general, questions will be set in a context which will be familiar to 15/16-year-old students and will have at least three marks attached to them.

In papers where a calculator is allowed, the complexity of calculations will be appropriate and in context. On a non-calculator paper, skills such as scale drawing and estimation will be assessed in context.

4. How will the questions be marked?

In contrast to the functional skills papers, the functional elements will be marked according to the standard (revised) Edexcel GCSE Mathematics mark schemes, with M, A, B and C marks. C or communication marks are awarded when the candidate has supported a conclusion with justification (either by clear calculation or diagram, or by giving supporting reasons).

5. What are the similarities and differences between the Edexcel functional skills paper and the functional elements in the Edexcel GCSE Mathematics papers?

The main differences are illustrated in the table below:

Edexcel functional skills  Edexcel GCSE Mathematics
Three tasks with an average of 16 marks split into parts which follow a theme. Questions are self-contained
Calculator allowed Calculator allowed on some papers
Mathematical techniques restricted to those from National Curriculum levels 1 to 6 Any mathematical techniques from National Curriculum levels 1 to 6
Mathematical techniques cannot be above National Curriculum level 6 Mathematical techniques can be above National Curriculum level 6

6. What resources are available?

Edexcel functional skills past papers

• Edexcel Sample Assessment Materials and mock papers for Specification A and B at

Ideas developed and shared by classroom practitioners

Resources developed by the government for the FS pilot (modified in 2009)

• Our published resources contain everything you need to master the functional elements of mathematics in GCSE, with dedicated pages and functional questions throughout. Find out more and download free sample material here.

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