A level Maths - will all the top grades be taken by those doing Further Maths?

(32 Posts)
kittybelle Wed 27-Aug-14 03:31:33

Ds thinking about Maths for A level - but worried that top grades will be out of reach if he is competing alongside others who do FM as well. Is this the case?

He is at a grammar was in 3rd Maths set (of 4 so 2nd lowest) and got an A*. We havent spoken to the school yet about ds specifically - but at the A level selection talks earlier in the year - the Maths head said the subject is really tough - and just because you have an A* does not mean that will cope or do well at A level - and demanded that the boys have a very frank "look you in the eye" conversation about their specific ability. Do you think this is a bit OTT?

I have looked at the A level syllabus and seems most is "pure maths" what does this mean...?

Eastpoint Wed 27-Aug-14 07:12:26

Dd is in a similar situation but her maths teacher said she is in a good place as she knows working hard will mean she can achieve whereas some of the others might give up if they don't get something straight away. Our two will just have to work harder smile. The maths teacher also said everyone in the (selective intake) school was good enough to do A level maths.

DoctorDonnaNoble Wed 27-Aug-14 07:27:08

It is tough. The reason most of the top grades seem to go to people doing Further Maths is because those tend to be the best mathematicians. That doesn't mean that a hard working student can't get an A*. A lot of students seem to struggle at A Level Maths and we get the full range of grades even though they need an A* at GCSE to even start.

hellsbells99 Wed 27-Aug-14 07:34:33

My DD goes to a state comp and recently got an A at AS maths. She worked very hard. She has really enjoyed the subject and is carrying it on to A2. She got an A at Gcse too.

BeckAndCall Wed 27-Aug-14 08:10:57

i don't think its necessarily true - many people don't do FM because they're doing other things, not because they cant do it.

In my limited experience, lots of people doing single maths A level get A and A *

For my own DC, DS did both and then went on to do physics (so needed FM too, in an ideal world) but DD 2 only did regular maths because she didn't need FM for her biochemistry choices. and plenty of her friends are in the same place - not doing physics or engineering so have only done single maths and got an A * in A2.

DoctorDonnaNoble Wed 27-Aug-14 08:13:36

Good point - should have pointed out that it we do the Further Maths thing differently at our school and a lot of the candidates do it as a 5th with some lessons in lunchtime, and some of them do it instead of a games option.
Obviously, it will be different in schools where it 'takes up' another option block.

icymaiden Wed 27-Aug-14 08:48:58

DS! was in the bottom of 4 sets at his grammar school.He got an A at GCSE and A* at A level and didn't do FM ever

AtiaoftheJulii Wed 27-Aug-14 08:49:00

My eldest daughters are both doing single maths because for them it's an easy-ish A level to achieve, but their passions lie elsewhere and they're not doing FM. They're both capable of getting A*, imo. (Dd1 is determined to get A*, not sure whether dd2 will be so bothered.)

A tutee of mine got a mid-range A at GCSE and just got an A* for A level (plus an A in FM AS), so GCSE results are not necessarily a definitive prediction.

icymaiden Wed 27-Aug-14 08:51:45

acxtually , now I come to think about it he was in the bottom of 5 sets at GCSE, not 4.
At our school at AS level they are not set just random groupings.At A2 when there are usually only about 20 doing FM, they are in the same set for maths as their FM group.

noblegiraffe Wed 27-Aug-14 09:25:58

Nationally only a very small percentage of students who do further maths. A lot of sixth forms don't even offer it. Even if they did, there isn't a finite number of A grades available to be taken by those students, if he reaches the required standard, he will get the top grades.

Yes the subject is tough, but I think a school who tries to put off a student who got an A* at GCSE is doing them a disservice. An A* at GCSE isn't a guarantee of a top grade, but maths is an excellent, useful, earnings-potential-boosting, door-opening A-level to have whether you get an A*/A or not.

RiversideMum Wed 27-Aug-14 10:29:48

My DCs go to a comp and were both in the top GCSE set so did further maths GCSE as well as the normal paper. DD found that the pure maths AS was a lot of overlap with further maths GCSE. She got A for AS but did not carry on to A2. At her school the further maths A level group do very well, but also those that carry onto A2 without doing further maths also do well. If that makes sense! AS is hard and lots of them do give up.

jeanne16 Wed 27-Aug-14 11:47:44

I am a secondary school Maths teacher and I can confirm that the jump from GCSE to A level is huge. I would not recommend anyone other than A* pupils doing it. Since your son got an A* he could certainly consider it. One indicator is how good his Algebra is. Although they do lots of Algebra for GCSE, there is not that much in the exams, so kids can do well in other topics. Unless your son's Algebra is very strong, he should not do it. A level teachers will not have the time to go over things like simultaneous equations and algebraic fractions and the pupils will just be expected to know how to do these.

AllMimsyWereTheBorogoves Wed 27-Aug-14 11:57:25

My son got an A* in GCSE Maths taken at the end of year 10 and an A in the Free-standing Maths Qualification (Additional Maths) at the end of year 11 - the school explained this was midway between GCSE and AS and A is the highest grade. His A levels were History, Italian, German and Maths with Statistics. He found the Maths pretty straightforward - he did work quite hard but conceptually he didn't seem to struggle that much with any of it. He got a good solid A overall.

I'm hoping the Maths will look good on his CV when he graduates! His degree is in History.

Good luck to your son with his A level studies!

kittybelle Wed 27-Aug-14 13:08:44

This is the most amazing advice - thank you all for your input. I will talk to his teachers and ask the Q about algebra.....on balance I think I am feeling more reassured (if school agree) that he will be fine and get stuck in. His grammar is very Maths and Science heavy -- 80% of pupils take A level Maths....

MillyMollyMama Wed 27-Aug-14 13:44:55

Although Maths and Further Maths are technically separate A levels, some Universities count the Further Maths as half an A level (because it is another Maths qualification). In my experience, it has been the people who really enjoy Maths and need it for their degree choice who do FM. For example it definitely helps with Engineering and Maths degrees obviously! In Maths A level , a very high percentage of candidates get A or A*. I think this is because, traditionally, a lot of students know they are a Maths type of person so the A level is not hugely difficult for them and it is not a subjective subject! Someone who feels less secure, would not gamble with it and could feel they would be seen as second best against all the A and A*people. I would, however, pursue A levels Maths with an A* at GCSE but take the advice above and I think the "look me in the eye" comment is spot on. You know if you are a maths person. Likewise my DD knew she was a language person.

BeckAndCall Wed 27-Aug-14 22:41:42

I've personally never heard of FM being counted as half an A level. the majotiry of my DSs year did FM ( it was that kind of school) and with the exception of the cambridge and Imperial mathematicians, the offers they received were on the 3 A level basis - no restictions on one of those being FM.

DoctorDonnaNoble Thu 28-Aug-14 07:33:56

Hadn't heard of it being a half - but then at our school it is always a 4th or 5th A Level and so that wouldn't really matter.

hellsbells99 Thu 28-Aug-14 07:55:44

I think a few degree courses do not accept maths and FM as 2 separate A levels - medicine being one. Depending how your school runs the 2 A levels can also be a problem - if all A level maths is done in year 12 with FM done in year 13, then some universities/courses still want 3 A levels taken at the end of year 13, so the maths A level won't be counted as part of the offer.
DD1 and 2 of her close friends all got an A at Gcse and have all just got an A at AS level in maths so I don't agree that an A* at Gcse is required. DD1 hated the 'wordy' questions in edexcel Gcse. Her ums average in the 2 core papers at AS level was 95 I think - her S1 paper was lower.

DoctorDonnaNoble Thu 28-Aug-14 08:02:04

They operate as doing 4 or 5 As in 12 and then 4 or 5 in 13. We have had no problem with that with universities. Just saying that I'd never heard of it as not necessarily counting as a separate one in its own right. If they do it as a 5th, it's in lunchtime or it's their 4th timetabled A Level. Dropping to 3 is discouraged at my school and very few do that.

FishWithABicycle Thu 28-Aug-14 08:09:55

A levels are not marked competitively - in the event that only extremely bright people who know the syllabus perfectly enter the exam, they can all get A* grades. (Obviously this would never happen but there is no "quota" of Cs that must be allocated)

That said, if you are studying further maths then the basic non-further syllabus seems much easier so those taking further maths are more likely to get a higher grade.

kittybelle Thu 28-Aug-14 11:44:44

Thanks fish I had assumed that it was competitive so that say the top 20/ got A etc And if that was the case then it would be logical that those doing more maths ie the FM kids would be better placed to achieve this. However if this is not the case then I think he might well embrace it. Do you know if it is non competitive grades for all A levels?

frogsinapond Thu 28-Aug-14 12:46:35

kitty it isn't a fixed percentage getting any grade any more and hasn't been for a long time although it has come back to a similar system recently. it moved to the system fish described which is known as criteria-based outcomes a long time ago, ie: you meet the criteria and you get the grade, but about 4 years ago they changed the system yet again in an effort to curb grade inflation. It is now done on 'comparative outcomes' which means it is supposed to be about the same difficulty each year to achieve a particular grade. This effectively means we are close to the old system again, although the percentages are adjusted each year to allow for different cohorts being of different ability (they look at prior attainment of the dc taking each subject to establish this).

To see how this might affect maths grades we can look at the numbers taking both maths and further maths and consider the percentages achieving the different grades...

This year 88816 took maths and 14028 took further maths, so roughly 16% of those taking maths also took further maths (as some take maths first and then further maths a year or more later this isn't exact, but if we assume the numbers are similar year on year it should be approximate). In maths 17.3% got A*s and 24% A (a lot higher percentage than most subjects eg: 9.1%, 23.5% for chemistry; 9.4%, 18.1% for biology; 6.2%,13.8% for English), so even if every further mathematician got an A* in maths (which they don't) there would still be a few left over.

If you want to get an idea of the sort of grades further mathematicians get in their other subjects you can look at the percentages achieving each grade in further maths - the reason these percentages vary from subject to subject is in recognition of the fact that the cohort taking some subjects is more able than for others. To try and make it as fair as possible they award more A* and A grades to subjects which more able dc take so that it is (very roughly) supposed to be equally difficult to achieve a high grade in any subject. So this year in further maths 26.5% achieved A*, 29.5% A and 19.8% B and you should expect them to be getting similar results in their other subjects, although perhaps a bit higher in maths as they are by definition good at it). They are an able bunch and will mop up a good number of the maths high grades, but the system is designed to allow for this by allocating a higher percentage of high maths grades. It should be broadly fair to all.

Note all the figures given for this year are provisional. Historic figures can be found here

jeanne16 Thu 28-Aug-14 16:01:21

On the subject of whether FM counts as a full or half A level, I can add the following. Technically it is a half A level but it is highly valued by Unis and is considered a facilitating subject. So if your DC is good at Maths and wants to study Engineering, Science or Economics, then it is extremely useful. There is only potentially an issue if you do 4 AS levels in Y 12 and one of them is FM, then you cannot drop any of the 4 subjects as you can't just have Maths, FM and one other A level. That is why some schools make them do 5 at AS and then 4 at A2.

However my daughter did 4 at AS incl Maths and FM and continued all 4 to A2 and got into a very good Uni.

noblegiraffe Thu 28-Aug-14 16:20:11

Further Maths is a full A-level. It's 6 modules, the same amount as Maths A-level, and counts for the same number of UCAS points.

Some university courses don't count it as one, just like some don't count General Studies, but that doesn't mean it isn't one!

webwiz Thu 28-Aug-14 18:19:14

You can have maths, further maths and one other a level in year 13 - DD2 had that and so did everyone else in her further maths class.

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