Types of module
The STEP Support Programme consists of three types of module:
The Foundation modules provide an introduction to problem solving through carefully selected STEP I and II questions. They also introduce mathematical ideas which you may not have been taught at school, and show how some of the formulae commonly used in A-levels are derived. Each assignment has a “Hints and partial solutions” document to help you evaluate your work. Even if you are not intending to sit STEP I we strongly recommend that you use these resources to develop your problem solving skills before attempting the STEP II and STEP III modules. If your university offer only includes a STEP I paper then you should concentrate your efforts on the Foundation modules.
The STEP II modules focus on different areas of the STEP I and II specification. Each module consists of a selection of STEP II questions, together with hints and solutions. The modules also contain some topic notes which consists of useful formulae you should be aware of, together with some general hints and advice. These modules assume that you have already worked through most of the Foundation modules first.
The STEP III modules are very similar to the STEP II modules, except that they focus on STEP III questions. These will be published in Spring 2017, and are designed to be worked on after the Foundation and STEP II modules. The specification for STEP III includes all of STEP I/II plus A-level Further Mathematics topics. Whilst anyone can do these modules if they so wish, if your university offer does not require you to sit STEP III we would recommend that you focus on the other modules.
These modules are designed to develop your problem solving skills and provide an introduction to solving STEP (and STEP-like) problems. Most of the questions are taken from STEP I papers, with some STEP II questions appearing in later modules. The assignments also introduce mathematical ideas beyond the syllabus with lots of opportunities for extra reading.
The STEP I specification includes subjects usually taught towards the end of an A-level in single Mathematics, so you may sometimes be asked to use things that you have not met in school yet. The Foundation modules derive or explain mathematical results before they are used. Later modules sometimes make reference to results from earlier modules, and if there are two STEP questions testing similar things the preparation for the earlier one will be longer. Whilst the Foundation modules have a logical order, you do not have to do them in order, or do every one, if you have only limited time or start the programme later.
The assignments can be used in different ways, depending on how you like to work. You can, if you like, just answer the STEP questions. Alternatively, you might like to just answer the preparation and STEP questions. Or you might like to start by trying the STEP question first, and then look at the preparation if you get stuck, the choice is yours. Bear in mind, however, that the other parts of the assignments are also useful, and will also improve your mathematical reasoning and problem solving abilities.
The hints and solutions files are provided to give you some ideas for you to try if you are stuck, and for you to use to self evaluate your work. It is not cheating to use the answers to work out what you could do to solve the question – as long as you fully understand the method. Using the answers to find a solution to a STEP question is far better than not attempting it at all, and you will be in a better position to answer similar questions.
Even if you think you have done everything correctly, it is still a good idea to have a look at the hints and solutions as there will also be some guidance for similar types of problem.
STEP II modules
Each STEP II module relates to a different area of the specification and contains 4 STEP II questions. Since different schools teach the curriculum in different orders some of the STEP questions may require results that you have not yet been taught. To ensure that everyone is able to attempt the questions there are some "Topic Notes". There are also "Hints" and "Solutions" documents.
The modules can be tackled in whichever order you like, but some will depend on others (for example calculus techniques are needed for the curve sketching questions).
We suggest that you attempt the questions (with the use of the topics notes) before looking at the hints or solutions documents, or you might like to read through the topic notes before attempting the questions. If you read the topic notes and find there are gaps in your knowledge, you may wish to read up on those topics. If after having a good attempt at the question you feel you need some guidance then you can use the “Hints” document to get some ideas for how to tackle the question. Don’t be tempted to resort to the hints too soon!
The “Solutions” document shows one possible solution of each question, but there may be some gaps for you to fill in. If you managed to complete the question, then you can check your work by referring to the “Solutions” document. If you found the question difficult then you can work through the question referring to the “Solutions” as you progress through it. Do look at the “Solutions” document even if you think you have answered a question well; there may be some extra ideas in there that you can use in future questions.
These modules will start to be published in December 2016, and assume that you have already worked through most of the Foundation modules first.
STEP III modules
The specification for STEP III includes all the material covered in STEP I and II as well as topics usually taught in a further maths A-level. Each module concentrates on a different area of the STEP III specification.
As with the STEP II modules, each STEP III module has a sheet of questions, topic notes, a “Hints” sheet to give you pointers and ideas and a “Solutions” sheet. How you use the resources is up to you, but we would suggest tackling the questions with the topic notes first, then looking at the hints if necessary and finally referring to the solutions.
These modules will be published in Spring 2017, and are designed to be worked on after the Foundation and STEP II modules.