Introduction

The National 5 Maths course covers a lot of ground and is often underestimated by students. It’s the minimum required standard for many job roles and further education courses. I’m often asked whether a student should take National 5 Maths. This post aims to give you key information about the National 5 Maths course to help you answer that, and other, common questions.

What is the National 5 Maths Course?

National 5 Mathematics has SQA course code C847 75. It’s generally considered the minimum required standard for entry to many further education courses and job roles. However, this is changing as NATIONAL 5 APPLICATIONS OF MATHS becomes more recognised. Although the National 5 Maths course is considered to be a course in general Mathematics, it is largely focused on algebra techniques. This is often a source of frustration for students who do not consider algebra relevant to their future plans. The focus on algebra is primarily for learners who will go on to study Higher Maths where good algebra skills are essential.¬†There are also several stand-alone topics in the National 5 Maths course, such as statistics and percentages.

Who is the National 5 Maths Course for?

The description of the intended learner for the National 5 Maths course in the course SPECIFICATION is somewhat vague. Essentially, the course is for students who intend to study Maths further – for example HIGHER MATHS – or who need a Maths qualification at level 5 demonstrating a range of Mathematical skills. Students can take ‘full’ National 5 Maths or NATIONAL 5 APPLICATIONS OF MATHS. The latter is essentially a course in numeracy and practical Maths skills. Until recently, almost all further education courses or job roles required full National 5 Maths but this is changing. Students should discuss which course to take with their guidance teacher. Students should not take both courses, although that has become increasingly common. I wrote a post about that HERE. National 5 Maths is a demanding course which students should only take if they performed well at National 4 Maths.

What is Taught in the National 5 Maths Course?

National 5 Maths has traditionally been taught in three units – Expressions & Formulas, Relationships & Applications. However, some teachers now prefer to order the course in their own way. I strongly dislike this practice as it throws students into topics without enough preparatory work. Essentially the first unit ‘Expressions & Formulas’ develops key algebra techniques. The second unit, Relationships – by far the most demanding part of the course – uses those algebra skills in various settings. And the third unit, Applications, is a mix of topics with a focus on numeracy. If students get the algebra skills from unit 1 down early, it makes the rest of the course significantly easier. If not, then it usually becomes a real struggle. You can view the full course syllabus HERE and read more about the course content in the SQA National 5 Maths SPECIFICATION.

Need help with National 5 Maths?

We have the solution with our National 5 Maths Online Course. Featuring 85 step by step instructional videos, more than 500 exam relevant practice questions with full solutions and comprehensive course notes. Ideal to support your classroom work, help with homework or tests, and prepare for final exams. Learn more HERE or start your FREE one week trial.

Is the National 5 Maths Course Difficult?

Students often underestimate the National 5 Maths course which is a significant step up from National 4 Maths. Much of the content of National 4 Maths is based on logic rather than Mathematical technique. National 5 Maths, however, is more formal and requires students to demonstrate formal solutions to problems. Many students get caught out by this – they understand the topics but struggle to write sufficiently precise solutions. The Relationships unit contains some new and demanding topics and almost every student finds them difficult at first. However, the key to these is to have developed solid algebra skills in the first part of the course. A lot of students only ‘bring it all together’ at the last minute. This isn’t necessarily because they’ve been lazy. Rather, it’s because the techniques require experience as much as technical skill which takes time to develop.

What are the Easiest Topics?

The topics in unit 3, Applications, tend to be done quite well. In my experience this is largely because many of the unit 3 techniques are procedural in nature i.e. students can replicate the same technique every time. Also, there are some straight-forward numeracy topics in unit 3 such as Fractions & Mixed Numbers, Statistics, and Percentages. The Volume topic, from unit 1, is also quite straight-forward. Note that none of these ‘easier’ topics involve algebra. Students who have done the work should expect to make most, if not all, of the marks in these topics on the final exam.

What are the Most Challenging Topics?

Having tutored many hundreds of National 5 Maths students I can say confidently that unit 2 gives, by far, the most trouble. In fact, almost every student struggles with at least one, but often more, of the unit 2 topics. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, some of the topics use completely new types of Mathematics, such as Functions. Secondly, the topics are largely built upon algebra skills from unit 1. If students didn’t master those skills, they’re playing catch up while learning new material. The most difficult topics are Quadratic Functions, Graphs of Quadratic Functions, Straight Lines and Trigonometry. Fortunately there are common themes in these topics. So, if a student masters one or two key ideas, it can make all of those topics more manageable.

How Does National 5 Maths Compare to National 5 Applications of Maths?

National 5 Maths has a diverse curriculum but most of the marks come from algebra techniques. On the other hand, National 5 Applications of Maths is essentially a course in numeracy, with very little algebra. You can learn more about National 5 Applications of Maths HERE. These two courses serve very different purposes and students should be careful to make sure they take the correct one. Schools often put students in the wrong course – you can read more about that HERE. Students who wish to take Higher Maths should definitely take ‘full’ National 5 Maths. For some students, National 5 Applications of Maths is absolutely the correct course. However, many careers and further education courses require full National 5 Maths. Students should check what they need carefully, although at that age it isn’t necessarily clear.

Need help with National 5 Maths?

We have the solution with our National 5 Maths Online Course. Featuring 85 step by step instructional videos, more than 500 exam relevant practice questions with full solutions and comprehensive course notes. Ideal to support your classroom work, help with homework or tests, and prepare for final exams. Learn more HERE or start your FREE one week trial.

How is the National 5 Maths Course Assessed?

National 5 Maths is assessed by two final exam papers – one non-calculator paper and one calculator paper. For the 2022 final exams paper 1, the non-calculator paper, lasted 60 minutes and paper 2, the calculator paper, lasted 90 minutes. Students should be aware that not all of the questions in the calculator paper require the calculator. Also, students should practice using the calculator as some advanced functions are required. I often see students making computation errors with the calculator which is really a big waste of marks. Students sometimes perform poorly in paper 2 because they start to get tired. This is made worse since there are often demanding questions towards the end of paper 2. View the past exam papers and marking guides HERE.

Do I Need National 5 Maths for University or College?

Students should check the entry requirements for their chosen course as they are subject to change. Until recently National 5 Maths was the minimum required qualification for many job roles and further education courses. However, that has changed somewhat as more and more recognition is being given to the National 5 Applications of Maths course. Students following a technical career or university course are likely to need Higher Maths. Higher Maths is a challenging course and students really need to make an A or strong B grade at National 5 to take Higher. Two examples of university courses which now accept National 5 Applications of Maths are nursing and primary teaching. Again, check carefully as each course will be different.

Any More Questions?

Drop us a message if you have any questions about the National 5 Maths course. We’ll get back to you shortly.