Maths & further maths A levels - any disadvantage to doing both?

(96 Posts)
hipposeleven Wed 17-Feb-21 14:09:09

My ds is planning to do A levels in maths, further maths, history and psychology. He might drop either psychology or history if he decides it's better to focus on 3.

I wondered whether there's any disadvantage in having both maths and further maths at A level? Would all universities count these as 2 separate A levels? He may do a maths degree, but isn't really decided yet, so I'm worried that he might not be seen as having a broad enough range of subjects if he does three, of which two are maths. Does anyone have any experience of this, particularly any dcs with both maths A levels applying for a non-maths degree?

OP’s posts: |
mumsneedwine Wed 17-Feb-21 14:14:43

Some Unis will not count them as 2 separate A levels. FM useful if he's going to do maths or engineering at Uni but otherwise better to have 3 different subjects.

Mindlesspuzzles Wed 17-Feb-21 14:33:01

Disadvantage, its more work obviously. As you would expect , fm is good for if going onto maths, physics, engineering degrees in that it shouldmake the 1st year easier. But even then not essential.

Dds 6th form college seem happier for students to drop the FM than the non maths subject when doing FM and maths.

hipposeleven Wed 17-Feb-21 14:34:34

Ah that's interesting mumneedswine - thanks. His school are apparently pushing him to do FM because (they say) if he wants to do a maths degree he'd have a limited choice of unis with just maths. But, since he doesn't know what he wants to do after A levels, maybe FM isn't a great idea. Or maybe he should do the 4 A levels at least for Y12 and hopefully he'll then know what degree he wants to do. It's been difficult this year with no 6th form open days and no opportunity at all for parents to ask questions.

OP’s posts: |
hipposeleven Wed 17-Feb-21 14:36:57

Thanks Mindless. I think maybe he needs to think a bit more carefully about the non-maths subjects. He chose his favourite GCSE subject, history - fair enough. But psychology was a fairly random choice from what was available in the option blocks.

OP’s posts: |
MarshaBradyo Wed 17-Feb-21 14:39:25

Ds is doing physics, maths and computer science to go on to CS degree / tech career

He is adding FM

It’s hard to narrow down he was also keen on economics

Meredithgrey1 Wed 17-Feb-21 14:40:41

I did almost those four AS levels (sociology instead of history) and then dropped further maths at the point I decided not to do a maths degree.
I think there’s definitely a benefit to doing further maths for AS, if he’s considering a maths degree, and then reconsidering next year when he drops down to three.
In terms of having three A levels, two of which are maths, it really depends what he wants to do. There’s not going to be any benefit to having further maths if he does a history degree for example. And a psychology degree (which I did) has a fairly significant stats part to it that was hard for some people without a maths background but you certainly don’t need further maths to be able to do it. And for psychology, a more essay based A level like history would maybe be a better third option.

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MarshaBradyo Wed 17-Feb-21 14:42:23

Actually iirc you could only do FM as add on to the three rather than replacement

Puzzler333 Wed 17-Feb-21 14:45:27

Hmm... There's no problem with further maths per se, but the combination is a little odd.

He'd have no "hard" sciences so rules these out for uni along with engineering (it's probably possible to get into a physics or engineering course without physics, but hard).

If he continues to love history, he'd be better doing another essay subject. Psychology could work for this, to be fair.

If he loves history, why maths at all? Does he have interest in the subject?

LadyMacnet Wed 17-Feb-21 14:52:53

To apply to study maths at very top unis then, if FM is offered at a school and the student has elected not to study it, this will disadvantage the applicant - note Cambs policy on this. FM is counted as a full, separate A level for uni admissions. I work in FE and have never encountered a student who was rejected by a uni for “only” doing FM, maths and one other subject. Doing FM also benefits students considering engineering, as first year undergrad covers some FM content and can help students feel more confident in their first year away at uni.

DahliaMacNamara Wed 17-Feb-21 16:17:53

Agree with @LadyMacnet. I'm sure I read somewhere here very recently of a student who had found that having FM A level under their belt helped enormously in their first year.
DD is taking 3 subjects, including FM, and has offers from places nobody would turn their nose up at.

Einszwei Wed 17-Feb-21 16:22:26

Unless he has an extreme interest in maths or wants to study a degree where it is required - don't bother. I did further maths and it took up all my free periods. 4 maths lessons in a row on some days.....I definitely regretted it!

kitnkaboodle Wed 17-Feb-21 18:27:42

I have to politely disagree with PP who says that FM and Maths are sometimes only counted as one subject. My younger DS is 'only' doing Maths, FM and Physics at A level and wants to do Maths or something STEMmy at uni. Before he confirmed his A level options I contacted some of the top unis (Imperial, etc) to clarify if FM was acceptable as a third, rather than a fourth A level. They all said it was fine as a third. (tbf, this was a surprise to me too!)

btw FM is very .... very ... hard. My older DS can confirm this! He got As for both Maths and Physics at A level but dropped FM along the way as he found it too much of a stretch for him.

MyFloorIsLava Wed 17-Feb-21 18:30:54

I got accepted for a top level maths degree without FM (school didn't offer it). WHAT a mistake. If there is any chance he will want to go on to study a degree with a large maths element then he really ought to do FM. Try it for at least the first year.

newyeardelurker Wed 17-Feb-21 18:34:12

I did maths and further maths decades ago. I loved maths and enjoyed them, and felt they complemented each other - full courses in pure and applied. It is lots of work, and hard, but he could always drop FM if it was too much. It also put me in a tiny maths class, there were 4 of us and we were all serious about it. I don't use the maths now other than finance and performance report reviews, but definitely don't regret it.

softbrownsofa Wed 17-Feb-21 18:35:45

Interesting that people have had different experiences with it being counted as one A Level.

About six years ago when they still did AS Levels, DS did two languages, Maths and Further Maths for AS. Wanted to drop a language to carry on with Maths, FM and French for his A Levels but his sixth form wouldn’t let him as they said this could be taken as only doing two A Levels (Maths and FM counting as one). So he had to plough on with all four.

For what it’s worth, it didn’t really add much work load as DS really is fantastic at maths so Further Maths didn’t add significant stress. In fact I think he felt that it helped him and prepared him massively for doing Maths at uni. So if your son is similar then perhaps he’ll be the same and carry on with all 4 without feeling too bogged down!

Ultimately DS did end up going to uni to do Maths and if I remember correctly his offers asked for a certain grade in Maths and Further Maths and then one more grade - so only three A Levels if that makes sense rather than a specific grade for each of the four he was taking. But I’ll have to check that with him.

kitnkaboodle Wed 17-Feb-21 18:38:45

I think the issue is that a lot of schools will only let you choose FM as a fourth option, but it turns out that unis take a different view of it. I was surprised that DS's school let him take it as a third - hence contacting unis to clarify that he wasn't making a big mistake!

mumsneedwine Wed 17-Feb-21 18:44:19

If you are aiming for a maths degree then FM usually counted as a 3rd. If planning on non mathsy thing then it probably won't be. Worth taking for year 12, but check how it's taught. Some places do maths in 12 & FM in 13. Some do them side by side.

bathorshower Wed 17-Feb-21 18:49:41

This may not apply, but it's worth checking how they're taught - when I did double maths A level (a long time ago!) we had nowhere near twice as much timetabled lessons as those doing any other two A levels. All of us doing FM were in one class, separate to those doing single maths, and we were expected to work at speed. It's worth saying that you needed an A* to be allowed to do it to start with, as it was tough. I think we all got A's in maths though, and some of us got A's in both (no A*s at A level then).

Ingles2 Wed 17-Feb-21 18:55:54

my son took maths, further maths, physics and history at A level.. and is now 2nd yr uni studying joint theoretical physics and maths...
is your son planning on studying a humanity at uni? in which case, he doesn't need the extra FM anyway.. it is also extremely hard imo
or is he going to take maths/science /engineering in which case he really does need the FM..
I've just asked my son and he says it made a really difference in 1st year having FM, but it isn't essential as they go over it .. however, he also said that the 4 A levels he took, is an absolute breeze compared to the work he is doing now, so perhaps maths at uni is not the right subject if he's not prepared to do that amount of work?

Malbecfan Wed 17-Feb-21 19:58:46

Both my DDs did FM & both are studying Natural Sciences. DD1 did the full A level - she found it really hard work but it really helped in her 1st year at Cambridge. DD2 didn't get an offer from Cambridge and after much soul-searching, dropped down so she just sat the AS. She too found it invaluable in her first year and basically avoided almost every Maths class as she had already covered it.

If the DC in question is able, then my advice is to crack on with it. If they are struggling, then perhaps just take the AS.

hipposeleven Wed 17-Feb-21 20:30:12

Thank you for the all the replies. Lots to think about. I think the problem is that he doesn't really know what he wants to do, either for A levels or degree. He wants to keep his options open. His favourite subjects are history and maths. Because maths is one of his possible degree subjects, and he's very good at it, he's been encouraged to do further maths. He was unsure about the 4th, whether to go for another essay subjects, in case he decides on a history degree, or a science to give him other options. I think psychology was chosen because it has elements of humanity and science.

From reading all of the replies, I think he really needs to think more about what he's interested in. He hasn't done much research on degrees other than school subjects. I keep suggesting he looks at related subjects to see if any spark his interest - engineering, economics, finance, statistics, international relations. I'm not sure he knows where to start really, but I think it's probably not realistic to want to keep ALL options open.

For those of you who said FM is very hard work, surely if he finds it too hard then a maths degree wouldn't be a good choice? And presumably there would be a big gap at uni between those with FM and those without?

OP’s posts: |
Nacreous Wed 17-Feb-21 20:38:21

FM was hard work for me compared to maths A level, but I self taught maths a level and did it in 1/2 the expected time as well, so it wasn't an impossible task for FM. Just a big step up again from Maths. I did natural sciences at uni and as per the previous poster's daughter found it really made life in first year a lot easier (or rather it was still incredibly hard but not crushingly so!).

I think 4 with the option of dropping after AS is the best plan. He definitely needs to think about uni I think. His options would be quite limited without a third science if he wants to go down a physics/engineering route I think. I think it would be okay on humanities if he had both Psych and History but I again think only one might make things difficult.

CosmicComfort Wed 17-Feb-21 20:43:53

Ds1 has done both with physics and has been offered a place at Oxford to study for. Masters in engineering.

I must admit, I was worried it might disadvantage him but he knew what he wanted to do and has had offers for engineering degree from every university he applied to.

Ds2 started further maths as a 4th A level but dropped it due to the workload.

Ds2 did research what he wanted to do at degree level before choosing his A levels.

Ds1 has always seemed very fixed on maths related subjects hence doing both maths and further maths.

AlwaysMoreCoffee Wed 17-Feb-21 20:44:50

No offence but I wonder if the PP was mistaken about unis not treating FM as a separate A Level. It’s very highly regarded (because it’s so demanding).

If your DS is being encouraged to do it then he is probably good enough at Maths to handle it. Does the school have a good track record of teaching it? What have previous years’ FM results been like? What has the school’s drop out rate been?

It was often taken as an AS level back in the day, as the PP says, because this was a common dilemma. Now, the AS doesn’t contribute to the A Level, so the choice is more likely to be don’t take it unless you’re really definitely sure you’re ace at Maths, or risk dropping FM completely if you can’t manage it. A lot more “all or nothing”.

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