Further Maths - a bridge too far

(36 Posts)
incogneetow Sat 29-Dec-12 17:00:54

ds1 is making A level choices. He's veering towards physics, chemistry, maths and further maths. (Predicted A* in all at GCSE.)

I'm dubious about the FM:
* I don't think he's passionate about Maths, in the way he is about physics and chem.
* One of his reasons is someone's told him M+FM is a lighter option than a 3rd science. I don't think this is correct.
* I did O Level Maths early and up to that point always found maths easy (as he does). But A Level was a bugger and I had to work very very hard.
* I think dropping biology will limit his options more (pharmacy, medical science, etc)

circular Sat 29-Dec-12 17:06:34

I've heard (probably somewhere on here) that you need to a bit careful with FM if likely to opt for medicine or something as competitive that needs all in a single sitting.
Depends how the school does it, but many do the complete Maths A2 in yr12, and FM, in yr13. So the Maths grade (which is often higher than the FM grade) does not get included in the Uni offer.

incogneetow Sat 29-Dec-12 18:04:41

Thanks: that's interesting.

NewFerry Sat 29-Dec-12 18:14:20

At DS school further maths is only allowed after interview with HOD and as a fifth AS subject precisely so if you decide maths is too difficult, or not your thing, you can drop both at AS and still have three subjects to take to A2

DeWe Sat 29-Dec-12 22:27:31

When I did it maths and further maths, it was an easier option than doing a third science. It was shown by maths and further maths only took 12 lessons a week whereas each science had 8 lessons each. (so equivalent of 1.5 a-levels in lessons).

What does he want to do?
If he wants to go for medicine type, he'd be better going for biology. If he's looking at physics/engineering end then he'd be much better going for further maths.

Mutteroo Sun 30-Dec-12 05:57:10

Word of warning on Further Maths OP!

DS started his AS levels this year in Maths, Further Maths, Physics & Computer Sciences. He had wanted to study Chemistry but opted for the computing option right at the end of Yr11. He has now dropped Further Maths as even though he gained A* at GCSE, he was unable to process the information fast enough to be on course for the A grade he had anticipated. Most of his classmates had previously taken AS maths in year11 & not one had gained a grade higher than D. To be accepted to study FM at his sixth form, you needed to have a minimum of grade A at GCSE & so they're all mathematically good to start with.

DS is happy to have dropped FM as although he loved the subject, his dyslexic issues hindered his progress. I'm aware of three other pupils who also dropped FM either because they were told to or had chosen to. DS's maths tutor was fantastic & the support offered was outstanding. He wanted DS to continue with the subject inspite of the predicted weak grade, because he knew how much effort DS was putting in & how capable he was, albeit slower than his peers!

Your son is unlikely to have the processing/memory issues my son has but it's a fair warning that Further maths is not an easy option. My son is an extremely bright, determined young man who doesn't give up without a fight. He's had to accept defeat begrudgingly with Further Maths. DS now back on course for his predicted A grades in the three other subjects so he's happy enough with his decision.

MrsHoarder Sun 30-Dec-12 06:05:57

It isn't an easy option, but all 20 in my class got an A (obviously pre A* by a year or two). If he is interested in maths/physics/engineering, fm will make his degree a lot easier to cope with. Obviously if he's looking at medicine/biology etc then he needs to look at biology, but surely he realises that?

Those were my options and to be honest I loved FM. Much more interesting than the maths A level. I went on to read physics though, so I think it totally depends on what he wants to do and where his passion lies. Can he explain why he wants to do it and where he wants to go with it?

incogneetow Sun 30-Dec-12 12:34:44

His true passion is, and has been for many years, physics.
Therefore M & FM makes sense.
But I just wonder whether he might change his mind in the first year of A levels.

Needmoresleep Sun 30-Dec-12 14:26:23

My son is not a natural mathematician but is doing FM because:

1. The teaching in his (private) school is strong and he will be well supported.
2. He is likely to have to learn maths up to this level as part of his intended degree course (economics) and so feels he might as well learn it at school within a classroom environment.
3. He recognises that this is not an easy option for him and so will have to work quite hard.
4. It is a fourth A level and so not so critical he gets a top grade.

He thought quite hard about it. If any of the elements above were not in place, he might have decided against.

moonbells Sun 30-Dec-12 15:24:00

I started on Maths, Chemistry and Physics, intending to study Physics.

After 2 weeks on the course, I was forcibly changed by school to FM from Chemistry as they stated that if I was positive I wanted to do physics, this would be the best option.

I have spent the past 20+ years regretting that we let them override my wishes. At uni, the first year maths for physics course taught the entire FM syllabus over again, simply to catch up those who hadn't done it. But I never got the chance to do catch-up chemistry. Which would have been far more useful in retrospect as a physicist in a medical setting.

However, FM is NOT an easy option. And pretty much all the syllabus is needed for a physics course, so if your DS is headed for physics or physical chemistry, and his school is more enlightened than mine was, then the FM will seriously help.

If your son is so keen on Physics then FM will be a far better option than Chemistry.

Statistically doing FM also improves Maths grades by around a grade so that shouldn't be a worry.

Unlike a few years ago, the AS level in Further Maths is a genuine AS Level standard and really quite accessable, although the A2 is quite hard. The grade statistics are very good though smile

It's worth considering how the school offer it (as circular has said). Doing the full A Level in Maths in one year is one option, being ina normal class for A Level and doing FM over 2 years in another class is another option. Both have pros and cons

Advantages of it are: a group of really keen bright students doing FM who often do really well, a lot of Universities are now encouraging or even requiring FM as so many more students are doing it. He'll be more likely to do more Mechanics options which will support the Physics (but you should check this with the school)

Disadvantages are: some medical schools can be difficult about accepting this. It's a lot of exams (in that Maths is a 6 module A level rather than 4 and so he'l be doing 12 exams), as there are no longer January sittings - this might be an issue

FM is a fab subject, A Level Maths is so dull in comparison!

moonbells Sun 30-Dec-12 18:38:58

Heh. Vector Spaces. Those were the days...

webwiz Sun 30-Dec-12 19:52:56

Schools organise Maths/Further Maths A levels in lots of different ways - at my DCs school they are timetabled in two separate blocks meaning A level Maths ends up feeling a bit slow but you get a small very able class for Further Maths.

The modules you take for Further Maths also depend to some extent on what the teachers speciality areas are. DD2 took Mechanics 1,2 and 3 which she found slightly torturous as she prefers algebra and pure maths.The only compulsory modules for further Maths are two of Further Pure ones so FP1 at AS and FP2 or FP3 at A2 so schools have a bit of flexibility as to whether they teach more of the Statistics/Decision/Mechanics modules.

DS has chosen Further Maths as a fifth AS but I am still a bit hmm about it. He wants to do English at university so has three "Arts" AS's but also loves Maths so he'll be taking it because he is very good at Maths and thinks he'll enjoy the challenge. The plan is he'll start the 5 and see how it goes (I'll be watching very closely to see how he's coping). Is this an option for your DS OP ?

Whether its a lighter option to take M+FM rather than M+another subject really depends on how your brain works. For DD2 yes it was easier but she's a really good mathematician (she's in her second year studying Maths at Bath) and for DS as well as although he isn't a methodical as DD2 he approaches Maths in quite a creative way and can always come up with a method to do something even if he hasn't been explicitly taught how.

Has your DS had guidance from school about his choices?

incogneetow Sun 30-Dec-12 21:12:52

I think starting 5 might be a good option, but it's not a possibility I think.

An additional complication is that we are probably relocating a considerable distance, and none of us have yet had the opportunity to visit the new school. But ds1 will have the chance to visit and discuss choices at interview.

Thanks for all your help.

gelo Mon 31-Dec-12 14:49:11

FM and bio are very different - FM is almost all understanding and abstract logic but biology is mostly a lot of fact memorising so it really does depend on your brain type as to which combination is easiest. M+FM is lighter for some but not others. To be honest, I don't think most dc really know if they have a mathematical mind or not until they've tried it. In ds's class quite a lot dropped out - many of them after the Jan exams in year 13 when they had achieved A level maths and AS fm.

Most universities are becoming more flexible about candidates sitting the maths in year 12 as they realise that is how some schools arrange their teaching, but it can still be an issue and as mentioned a few med schools do prefer a distinct subject (but for medicine you would be strongly advised to take bio anyway).

FM is a better option for engineering and all the physical sciences and probably looks good for accountancy/finance type jobs too. It has the advantage that people always assume you are super clever if you have done it. If your ds has chosen FM over bio then he's probably not going to be very drawn towards the biological sciences in any case

DS1 is 1 term in to doing Maths FM and 3 sciences.
He plans to drop Biology after AS level. They needed A / A* to be allowed to do FM and those doing both Maths and FM are taught together. The pace is very fast and at his 6th form there are a lot of overseas, mainly Chinese, pupils doing these subjects and they are good so very competitive.
He loves Physics and was planning on a physics degree but is loving the Maths so much he is now thinking of doing a Maths degree.

Timetraveller Mon 31-Dec-12 17:18:57

My ds is also doing Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Maths and Further Maths. They had to get an A* at GCSE to do Further Maths.
He found at first that although the work wasn't a lot harder, the sheer volumne of it was tough, and he took a few weeks to adapt and get on top of it all.
I think Further Maths must be very difficult, as so many of his class have dropped it. It seems every week another student gives it up!

Yes I think there have been a few drop outs in FM in DS class as well.
Interesting comments gelo about Biology being very different. DS is really not enjoying the Biology as much as the other sciences and Maths. He puts it down to having a very dull teacher who teaches at a slow laborious pace. He has a brilliant memory so can memorise the facts but feels that it's just regurgitating facts without having to think. Having said that he was always planning to drop it after AS.

ThreeBoostsOneGalaxy Mon 31-Dec-12 18:24:02

I'm biased as I did Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Of the four, Maths and Chemistry were the hardest but also the most useful. My opinion is that FM is only really necessary if you're planning to study Maths at university.

CaHoHoHootz Mon 31-Dec-12 18:46:53

At my DS's school a lot of students start FM and drop it if they find it too difficult. There is no disadvantage to doing this (especially if you are choosing it as a 5 As) My DS loves it and it is useful for his chemistry, maths and physics A levels.
Some students compromise by downgrading the full FM A'level to an extra As level.

FM can be an easy fourth Alevel for some DC's but it is different confused from GCSE maths obviously

Be careful of your DS doing four A levels if he is not confident in the fourth subject as some top Uni's will insist on a top grade in all four subjects taken even though their course requirements may only require three A'levels

There are other threads on this subject so you may want to search the archives. You can also get information on the student room

incogneetow Thu 03-Jan-13 11:09:34

We've just re-read the prospectus info and discovered he can do M+FM plus 3 others at AS; with a view to dropping one if that seems sensible after a year. smile

CaHoHoHootz Thu 03-Jan-13 12:06:11

That's the best outcome. Then he can see how it goes.

Dozer Thu 03-Jan-13 19:43:05

fM is not just for mega-brains!

When I did FM at a comprehensive a long time ago it wasn't that much harder, just more/different maths, and very interesting (although maths was my favourite subject, so probably biased!). I struggled with the physicsy stuff so got a B, which was pleased with.

A big factor is the teacher IMO, ours was great, but an ineffective or dull one would be rubbish. Only a small group of us did it, of which only one was a "true" mathematician (he went off to Oxford to do maths). Most of us did arts or sciences at university, not maths. The girl who got the lowest FM grade (D) in the class became a management accountant and earns loads of money.

oldpeculiar Fri 04-Jan-13 00:12:37

I do think you have to have a passion for maths for FM

BeckAndCall Fri 04-Jan-13 13:45:44

If he wants to do physics at uni, or engineering, say, he would find himself disadvantaged if he didn't have FM - many unis have extra classes for people who have not done FM to catchup! (it sounds like he's aiming high for uni quality, so quite likely to be true- doesn't just apply to extra classes needed at oxbridge)

But beware of thinking tht FM is not a full timetabled subject choice in itself! Lots of work involved and it doesn't just build on regular Maths - the topics are different.

incogneetow Fri 04-Jan-13 13:51:32

Oh, I agree completely oldpeculiar.
I think the difficulty is - with NC and GCSE maths - how are children supposed to discover whether they have a passion for Maths?

MrsHoarder Fri 04-Jan-13 13:58:25

Additional maths GCSE? Of course it requires an enthusiastic teacher (seen it done as an afterschool option)

malinois Fri 04-Jan-13 14:09:21

FM is useful, but not necessary for Physics at university. At Imperial, we covered the entire FM syllabus in the first term of the physics degree so those who had not taken FM were not at too much of a disadvantage.

Having said that, Physics at undergraduate level is extremely mathematically intensive and if he struggles with FM he will have real difficulties with a Physics degree.

incogneetow Fri 04-Jan-13 14:10:49

The current (11-16) school have been quite rubbish in challenging/enriching/stretching more able students. He's been getting A* in practice papers for over a year, but the only thing they're given as a challenge is to aim for full marks in the actual GCSE hmm. Current teacher very uninspiring.

Hence the hesitation wrt FM or not.

MrsHoarder Fri 04-Jan-13 14:20:52

Malinois, I'd disagree that its not worth doing fm because of it being covered in the first term, next door in the maths dept we were taught fm content fast whilst learning a whole heap of other new stuff. Some of it being familiar was very helpful.

From the other end of having missed the boat on doing fm that may not rule physics out, but fm is more useful than biology.

do I know you? Which years were you there?

malinois Fri 04-Jan-13 15:55:12

@MrsHoarder: I didn't said it was not worth doing FM because it's covered in the first term. It's definitely worth doing!

malinois Fri 04-Jan-13 16:01:11

@MrsHoarder: not saying when I was there. There were few enough women in IC Phys at the time and I don't want to out myself smile

MrsHoarder Fri 04-Jan-13 16:25:10

Fair enough on both counts smile

The level 2 certificate in further maths with aqa is another good qualification to stretch in ks4. More accessible than the additional maths . There are good problems on nrich and asknrich forum has good advice and is well moderated.

EllenJaneisstillnotmyname Mon 07-Jan-13 22:31:15

I did maths and physics (and English hmm ) A levels and went on to do a physics degree, partly because I found the physics easier than the maths. At university I was horrified at the amount of maths needed. Friends that had done further maths were at a huge advantage to me. They did cover the FM in maths for scientists in the first year, but I would have made a lot more progress if this had been a refresher of an 'A' level rather than a university style course that assumed I was fantastic at maths!

At least start the FM, I'd say. The jump from O level (let alone GCSE) to A level maths was a big one, I found, and I wasn't a natural mathematician, but if I had taken the FM course if not the exam, it would still have been helpful! blush

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