The maths whisperer - class of 30 all get A* 6 months early


hes going to get job offers from all over the world isn't he?

i hope the Secretary of State for education begs him for an hour of his time, to learn something about his methods.  

Hmm, everyone seems to be very trusting about this educational miracle....

There is good and there is probably too good to be true.  I would put 30 pupils in one class in a mixed ability comprehensive all getting A*s at Maths six months early in the latter camp.   The teacher might be an unparalled educational genius, I just don't consider it the most likely explanation.

And what do you think is the most likely explanation? They cheated?

ok dude 

Yes, I think the most likely explanation is that teacher got access to the paper and gave the answers beforehand or perhaps something more subtle.   I do not say he did, obviously I don't know.   I  simply think that is more likely than ALL 30 pupils in a mixed ability class getting top grade when one would normally expect only 5% of pupils to achieve this simply because there was a good teacher.

Ok thanks for sullying my nice thread with libel.


There is no libel - I have not said there was cheating, indeed I have specifically said I don't know whether there was or not - I have simply given my view of the most likely explanation for an extraordinary outcome.

Cheating in this way is going to be harder than your dismissive analysis credits.

Presumably if all students got 100% or if they got all the same answers right and wrong would be uncovered immediately. Therefore cheating requires this teacher to plant different correct answers in each student's head or cheat sheet. Less likely.

Then you consider that not one of these 30 teenagers has told someone about the ruse. Unless of course you believe this mastermind implanted different answers in different students heads without them noticing.

At this point it starts to seem simpler that he just taught them really well.

If it is uncovered in the future that he or another person has cheated then I will apologise and commit immediate seppuku.

Welsh people being good a maths?

I'm calling shenaningans on this

The reason I am suspicious is perhaps because I did a GCSE (a minority subject taught at outside normal school hours) at which we were given a revision session prior to the exam which in retrospect made it  clear the teacher had seen the paper and basically told us the answers.  That said, some dumbos still managed to do badly...

If his teaching method consisted of going over and over and over again a couple of past papers that were in the same format as the actual exam then I can just about see how many would do well, but it does seem incredible that all 30 in the class did so well.  Mind you, it was GCSE and the last GCSE maths paper I saw (friend's son's a few years ago) was laughably simple.  Add to that a charismatic teacher that makes the kids want to do well - if it's genuine, good on him. 


The teacher will probably be investigated- it's a suspicious outlier

It's improbable but that doesn't mean it didnt happen. He's been at the same school for 22 years and there's no mention of him even coming close to anything like this.

Maybe just happy coincidence that this 'mixed ability' group actually had a high level of aptitude

How much of this class is coursework based? Private schools are well known for dodging on that side of things but if it's an exam I reckon he will have just abandoned shitty modern feelings-based techniques in favour of the old school what actually works approach.

Honestly teaching maths in schools is insane now. "Sure Mrs Smith the class got good marks but WHAT ABOUT THE PEER REVIEW PORTION"

Would be interesting to see their marks in mocks and annual exams further down the school.

It may be a 'trick' of some sort, e.g just teaching very specific things and rehearsing the steps which you need to show to get the high grades - but without necessarily having comprehension of what it means

If he improved everyone's expected performance by a grade or two by outstanding teaching, yes that would be believable and excellent.  But everyone getting A*? 

The great thing about maths is that it is binary.  10/10.




The key is actually consistency and he had taught this class throughout their time at the school so he knew they had covered all parts of the syllabus in detail.  Even at my swanky private school we had the issue of changing teachers every year so we'd end up going back over something we'd done in the previous two years only for them to realise a month before the exam that we'd missed a chunk of the syllabus.  Amazed that I got an A in one A-level as we'd only ever covered half the syllabus.

I forget whether it was my GCSEs or my A Levels where our entire Economics class outperformed expectations.

This was entirely unrelated to the fact that our Economics teacher wrote the exam (/ was sat on the board of the exam group? its a while ago now) and gave us a mock exam shortly before which was eerily close to the final paper.

In this case though, as others said, it is just GCSE maths and I thought GCSEs had been getting easier year on year anyway.  If you were going to get your entire class to cheat would you really also put them forward 6 months early?

It's really not at all unbelievable.  A* represents being in the top 13% of GCSE Grades in Wales.

There are a LOT of REALLY sh1t schools in wales.

This guy is a good teacher who had been teaching the class consistently for five years. Although it's a comprehensive school there will have been different sets and no doubt this was the 'top set'. 

If we assume there are three sets in the school then this class is the top 33%.  If that's right then what this guy has achieved is taking the top 33% of a school in one of the more affluent areas of Wales and getting all of them to the standard of the top 13% in Wales nationally. He has done that over 5 years.  It's impressive for sure, but hardly 'oh he must be cheating' territory.

CCat is proof positive that welsh turds are polishable

Do they just give an A* to the top 13% though, regardless of the actual marks or do you actually still have to get 90% of the questions right?

Isn't it more likely that he's just been teaching them to A-Level standard maths instead?  If you have had the same class for years, being able to improve them a bit each time and getting ahead of the syllabus each year, then being able to ace GCSEs a bit early seems entirely plausible.  

Wonder if they've performed to expectations in other subjects or if their learning/homework time has been skewed towards their maths? 

SS has the key point here - they have had the same teacher from day one at high school who has focused them on acing that test and nothing else.

Suggestion that there's something underhand is unfounded and unhelpful.

Ah, you are correct Hank (but still a penis FAOD). I misread the article (blame my welsh education!) the 13% is A and A* combined.

So it's an even more impressive result than I thought but its still not THAT remarkable. GCSE maths just isn't that hard and there will have been no kids the class who had any sort of actual problem with maths.

13% didn't make you suspicious, now you know it is 5.9% you are still not suspicious (although all things being equal the odds of this occurring  are now 1 in multiple millions)  -out of curiosity how rare would A*s have to be before you are suspicious or would you just accept it was brilliant teaching even if say, only 1% of kids usually achieved the grade, or  perhaps 0.1%?

What deltabravo said.

My whole class got A's at GCSE (no A* then) in both Maths and French. We took French a year early. We had been taught to a far higher standard and the GCSE syllabus  just felt like a quick recap when it became time to do it.

ok, I accept teaching maths to a far higher standard than required may make GCSEs seem relatively easy - but it is weird this just seems to have come out of the blue - he has been there for 20 years - has he been getting extraordinary results all this time?  If so, why the hell hasn't the establishment already cottoned on to his methods and replicated them - it is I am afraid fishy.

I think a lot of people are missing the consistency point.  It's not just the teaching but it's having the same teacher all the way through.  We waste so much time in schools with kids moving up a year to a different teacher who then teaches them stuff they've already learned in a slightly different manner or the like rather than moving on to cover stuff they haven't done.  Not unusual to get to the exam and discover a whole question on something nobody has taught you.

I got a new maths teacher just before common entrance who tried to teach us a totally new way of doing maths and we all went from being reasonably confident to utterly confused in the space of weeks.  After enough complaints he was moved to another class and our headmaster ended up giving us weekend and evening extra coaching to get us back on track.

Wasn't there a recent change, maybe a year or so back, in the marking/scoring/grade warding methodology or whatever.  Might have given his approach to the subject a boost which wasn't there before.  

All things are not equal though and nobody is saying they are, quite the reverse in this case actually, they are saying this teacher is very much better than average.

Go look at a GCSE maths paper (I just did).  It's really not difficult maths.  It's things like

'Tom travels from a to b and at a speed of 90km per hour. It takes him time 't'.  Alice travels from a to b at a speed of 70km per hour. It takes her time 't+ 1 hour'  How long did it take for Tom to complete his journey?'


Tom travels from a to b and at a speed of 90km per hour. It takes him time 't'.  Alice travels from a to b at a speed of 70km per hour. It takes her time 't+ 1 hour'  How long did it take Alice to notice that Tom had taken less time to get from a to b and conclude that this was clearly the product of an inherently sexist patriarchal transport system?

My point being the same as the one DB and Tangent Boy make. It's perfectly possible to take a class of bright kids to the stage where they are doing maths much more complex than that over 5 years.

"All things are not equal though and nobody is saying they are, quite the reverse in this case actually, they are saying this teacher is very much better than average."

Of course, I realise it is not random, it has a cause - my question is how unlikely does a set of results have to be, all things being equal, before that cause is more likely to be fishy than excellent teaching.   Apparently there is no limit as far as you are concerned.

But anyhow, perhaps you are all correct and it is brilliant teaching - in which case, FFS, lets weaponise his methods and get them into all schools. 

GCSE maths is a waste of time.


even in my job (admittedly not a quant house etc) the maths you need barely budges beyond that needed for common entrance.


From what I've read he's previously had good grades and is well known and liked in the school but is just slightly better than average.  The key difference here is that he's had a class for five years so they've had consistent good teaching with a teacher who knows that he's covered everything that might come up rather than your usual teacher who's trying to ascertain what they've already been taught by two or more other teachers and to what standard.

As I've said above the closest I came to screwing up exams was in subjects where we had multiple teachers in a relatively short space of time who all kept starting from scratch so we'd done the first part of the syllabus three times and the latter parts of it zero times.

I can’t answer that question, just FYI.

My maths was always pretty bad and I didn’t try very hard particularly after they started mixing letters and numbers together which I felt was a bit unfair. 

We need monty on this thread. He studied hard at maths if only because his teacher promised him there's be plenty of pi involved.

Tom took 3.5 hours

Alice 4.5 hours

The distance was 315km


Buzz reminds me of this joke (it isn't meant to be a joke. I think. Isn't it?)

The evolution in teaching math since the 1950s: 

1. Teaching Math In 1950s 
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit ? 

2. Teaching Math In 1960s 
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit? 

3. Teaching Math In 1970s 
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit ? 

4. Teaching Math In 1980s 
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20. 

5. Teaching Math In 1990s 
A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers, and if you feel like crying, it's ok). 

6. Teaching Math In 2010 
Un hachero vende una carretada de maderapara $100. El costo de la producciones es $80. Cuanto dinero ha hecho? 

ANSWER: His profit was $375,000 because his logging business is just a front for his marijuana grow. 

Look, when Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer, all at the same time and still go back on the bike and won the Tour de France five times in a row no one claimed that was suspicious. Why would anyone doubt this?

Heh at eflli

It'll be having the same teacher for 5 yrs I reckon. One of mine is astonishingly lucky to have a maths teacher who normally only teaches a level. He was dumped with a year 7 class last year and has them again this year. He's not bothered about stickign rigidly to the curriculum and he wants to make sure the lessons are interesting for him as well as them. They're doing gcse papers now and actually understanding stuff. His penchant for sharing packets of biscuits / choc oranges with teh class also seems to work wonders. I like him a great deal - he's brutally honest at parents evening that the driving factor for him is not having a boring class - for himself.

Guy - I hear your reservations but you would be surprised what a dedicated teacher can do with his kids. 

Kids brains are bloody amazing and as long as they are inspired to learn and there is a dedicated teacher (in school and at home) they do achieve remarkable heights. We like to use terms as "mixed abilities" to account for the dim ones. they are dim not because of their inabilities but because of lack of commitment from their teacher and at home. 

Shut up guy. 

this is not unlikely at all. Have you seen how easy maths gcse is?!

Supposedly far easier than when I took it (sister is a maths teacher) nearly 20 years ago and that was so easy that I spent most of the classes doing stupid things and getting sent out and then going to buy a mars bar and throwing it in through the window and then knocking on the door to ask if I could have my mars bar back.

when I taught in China children there were doing undergraduate level (by our standards) maths at 17. English people just don’t take maths seriously, culturally.

The level of stupid here is astonishing - Mugen you may have been good at maths but your powers of rational thought, if you think how easy you happened to find the exam twenty years ago is relevant to the question, is very much in question.

"The level of stupid here is astonishing"

U only have yourself to blame tbf

Well Guy you are insisting on ignoring the one point that makes this case stand out from others and gives it its plausibility.

The article I read said that he was prepared to go over and over points with individual pupils to ensure that they all understood everything. I don't think there's any cheating involved - he's just a very good teacher. (Got 99% in her Maths mock O level in 1979).

I'm fairly sure Guy *is* guilty of libel above, and presumably ROF by publishing his libel.

Any defamation specialists able to comment / give a view?

Hope the teacher / school don't become aware of this thread.

I am not ignoring any point, I accept that it may be possible to teach Maths at a far higher level than required over a period of years resulting in all the pupils finding GCSE easy (although even then no slip ups at all seems  very very unlikely).    But if this is the case, why are such results not seen year after year and why isn't everyone doing it?

you are an idiot BC and I hope, for your hypothetical  client's sake, not a lawyer.

Quick, Guy!

Call him a paedo on Twitter.

That should nip any legal action from him in the bud.


Let us know how you get on.

The fact that he had them for 5 years must have helped, but this could be a nightmare if implemented everywhere. If I had had my Year 9 teacher for longer than a year then one of us would be dead.

My point, Guy, which you’ve tripped over - is that the content of a gcse maths exam is probably approachable and digestible to >80% of the population. English education just doesn’t place much emphasis on maths as a subject.

the maths involved in gcse is literally like following a recipe. Saying lots of people cannot memorise a list of recipes without cheating is saying.

’hmmm, a group of able bodied teenagers of sound mind in a comprehensive school can memorise and then follow a series of instructions?... I, The Bullshit Defective...sense crime’s afoot!’

"the content of a gcse maths exam is probably approachable and digestible to >80% of the population"


I think you are being Very generous about the Intelect of most people here. 


'memorise a list of recipes'  is exactly what is wrong with the approach to teaching maths in the UK.

Being able to follow a recipe is of absolutely zero value.  Particularly today when a computer,  calculator, or Christmas card can execute recipes faster and more accurately.  It's with even less than zero if it gives people the impression that it is anything to do with learning maths.

Wibble, honestly there are millions of 14 year olds in China right now studying calculus. It’s a required subject in their education system. 

If they can do that then with the right teaching then a normal class should be able to do GCSEs well in the U.K.

even AMERICANS have to take calculus in uni...have you ever met an American university graduate!? They are almost all exactly like forest gump - even the females. The only intelligent people in America are the actors who are chosen to be actors so they can pretend to be all the ‘intelligent aAmericans’ (who don’t exist).

What the others said re teaching at a higher level - this happened to me for the first few years of high school, my maths teacher thought I was good at maths so basically set me different work to the rest of the class. I then took the equivalent of the gcse without doing the prep year at all (just did practice papers), got the equivalent of an A* and went straight into a level equiv

that said, it does seem unlikely every single person got an A*. No one had an off day on exam day? 

Guy this system should be adopted in other schools but high staff turnover etc means that most kids get a different teacher every year and possibly more than one teacher every year.

I used to go out with an art teacher and her pupils always got good grades because she was the only art teacher in the school so would similarly teach them right from starting secondary school through to a-level and knew each pupil and their strengths so could guide them into doing what they did best.

It’s a traditionally dreadful school in a rough area of Cardiff. However, it has made fantastic strides in the last decade and has turned into a really decent school in a fairly deprived inner city area. 

From a happy crappy perspective, the school must be filled with hard-working innovative teachers like this. Does seem absolutely remarkable bordering on unbelievable though. 

Elfffi23 Jan 20 11:08

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Tom took 3.5 hours

Alice 4.5 hours

The distance was 315km

this answer would get barely any marks in a gcse exam (and any exam above that)

because it is a totally useless answer without showing whether ur answer was achieved efficiently and faultlessly or through trial and error. show ur workings, otherwise this is yet another elfffi maths fail

Elffi: true how reaching evolved!

Guy: agree, it's TGTBT.

What may have occurred is that  the 30 kids who were good at Maths were deliberately streamed into that class and hot-housed, and the other 180 were told to naff off, that they had no chance of passing and that they should go and get jobs in an Amazon warehouse.

In the December maths GCSE , 75% failed and only 25% got a 4

(pass) and above 

My cousins son had 3 different maths teachers at his fee paying school,  in his recent GCSE year