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A Level maths - too difficult? Choosing for the wrong reasons? (sorry -long)

(67 Posts)
circular Mon 19-Nov-12 07:40:42

Much as I hate to put a spanner in the works now DD has finally decided on her subjects, am wondering if maths is a wise choice for her.

She had no great love for any subject apart from music.   Also chosen French as she loves the Country and the culture, and would like to do a year of her degree in France. 
Her best subject as far as consistent results are concerned is Physics, so her 4th choice (although could be swayed to Psychology).

Maths was always one of her choice. She is very logical, always been in top set, will probably get an A unless she has a really bad day. 
What is worrying me (as a frustrated mathematician) is that she puts the minimal amount of work in and often doesn't appear to understand the basics (neg numbers, dividing fractions). 
Also she was going through a past paper this weekend, and claimed to have only covered enough to answer about 65% of it.
They had a very poor teacher in yr8 and 9 that could not control the class, so there may well be a gap, but I thought they would have covered at least 80% of the syllabus by now.
I try to help, but get screamed at at as we think differently ( she's better at applied, I'm better with numbers). So it usually ends up with me writing out a worked example and leaving it for her to go through when she has calmed down.

As mentioned in other threads, she will struggle to find a local sixth form place as competition so fierce. Maths is one of the clashes preventing her staying at her own school.  I get the feeling that if she includes maths on her external application for schools that want an A minimum, she would need an A* prediction.

One school she is applying to (90 min travelling) allows maths A level with B grade GCSE if from top set. Would it be wise to take maths with a B? They are the only school we have seen so far that offer both the Mechanics units which would suit her better. Others do M1 and S1.
Not a clue what she would chose instead of maths except nothing essay writing. 

MagiMingeWassailsAgain Mon 19-Nov-12 07:54:10

I am probably way out of touch, but my experience was doing the GCSE a year early after being in the top set forever, the failed maths a level completely.

A level was just massively hugely more difficult. An incredible jump from GCSE.

In hindsight I wish I had done subjects I loved instead of the ones I thought I should take for later on. FWIW I easily got A in french GCSE but scraped a D at a level and hated French after doing an a level in it.

This is all back in the early 90s before A* existed of course.

bruffin Mon 19-Nov-12 07:55:13

A lot of schools wont let you take physics if you are not taking maths.

DeWe Mon 19-Nov-12 09:39:54

My dm tutors maths. She sometimes has people that got a B at GCSE and want to do A-level. She wouldn't recommend it if they've worked for GCSE. If they've not really worked very hard for GCSE then sometimes they pull up their socks and really work hard for A-level-one she had even got an A.

However those that got a B, part of their problem was that A-level is done assuming they know all the CGSE work. So usually they were floundering because they didn't understand the basics they were building on. If they never really had tried to understand it at GCSE dm can work with them to understand it. If they understand it then she can work on the next stage. If they've spent two years already trying to understand the basics with help, then they're goign to really struggle to get the next stage even if dm gets they comfortable with the basics.

However A-level physics is very maths based, much more than GCSE. She will (I think) struggle, (because they assume some A-level work,) without A-level.

I would look at seeing if you can get her a tutor for maths. She may only need a few lessons, but if she can nail (and it sounds like you think she can) what she doesn't understand it will be really for the best. Children often work better for an external person (not parent).

One school local to dm takes them to do A-level as long as they've got a C. She sighs when she gets contacted by one of those for tutoring. Problem is often the parents either go "C at GCSE = C at A-level" or think "If the school accepts them to do A-level of course they're going to do well". The fact is that most of the B grades get nothing at A-level (not even a "N"-do they still do the near miss grade?) and they've never had a C grade get anything. She feels it raises their expectations when they'd be better concentrating on something they can get a result for.

hatsybatsy Mon 19-Nov-12 09:48:52

OP- is your daughter in year 11? surely there's no need to finalise A level choices yet?

Maths - was always my thing, was in the top set, did O level a year early yada yada.... and then I really struggled at A level. I did scrape a B but I hated every minute of it.

TBF it doesn't sound like your daughter is a maths whizz - and unless she wants to have amaths related career, I think she might be better chossing something else. Definitely do not do maths on the back of a gcse B - it will make for an unhappy A level experience

glaurung Mon 19-Nov-12 11:47:07

She sounds very similar to my dd who really rather loathed maths but then took it for A level anyway, but did badly on the first algebra test, which the school thought was a reasonable predictor of outcome. I think it predicted her a D/E with an outside chance of a C or U, which she wasn't happy about so she switched to Psychology which she actually enjoys and is doing much better at. Dd was predicted an A at maths GCSE and (somehow) achieved an A*. She was always rather muddled about the basics too and got the dividing fractions question wrong on the GCSE (flipped the wrong fraction upside down before multiplying as she thought it didn't matter - and then even though it was a calculator paper she chose to use her manual answer over the correct one her calculator gave, sigh!).

If I were you, I'd advise your dd to apply to her own school not doing maths as well as some of the others (either with or without maths). That way she can keep her options open and decide on the maths issue nearer the time (after results day even). Maths A level may be doable for her, but it would need a lot of determination and hard work from where she is now, which it sounds as if she mayy not be prepared to give, so she may be better advised to do another subject.

MordionAgenos Mon 19-Nov-12 12:07:07

My DD1 will not consider A Level maths even though she is predicted and on course for an A*. She feels that, apart from the fact that there are lots of other subjects she would rather do, she does not find maths sufficiently 'easy' and sees so many of her classmates who do, that she is convinced she isn't good enough.

noblegiraffe Mon 19-Nov-12 12:55:44

Although as a maths teacher I am keen to see students opting for A-level, at my school we decided to raise the entry requirements from a B to an A simply because so many students on a B dropped out or failed AS and it wasn't fair to give them false hope. There are students who get an A who also struggle and drop out or fail, as the jump from GCSE seems to be quite a challenge. Even if she scrapes an A, if she's not dead set on it, perhaps she should take a different option as she would need to devote a lot of extra time to it.

KittiesInsane Mon 19-Nov-12 13:07:36

DS got an A* at GCSE and is struggling at A level.

Mind you, he had a predicted C/D grade, and worked his socks off to pull off that final grade.

NewFerry Mon 19-Nov-12 13:35:55

Has your DD spoken to her Maths teacher? I should think they would be best placed to assess realistically whether she will cope and achieve a good grade. If she is consistently good at Physics, and is looking at taking the mechanics modules, then maybe she could cope.

However, I echo what others have said, it is a tough A-level. At my DS school, students wanting to take Maths are given a (short) text book to work through during the summer break. This helps bridge the GCSE - AS gap I think.

SecretSquirrels Mon 19-Nov-12 15:48:07

A level maths is tough and not to be undertaken lightly. DS1 is doing maths and FM and reckons even some of the A* students are finding it tough and many have dropped out. A level requires much more independent study than GCSE. I doubt you can do Physics without doing maths as well.

ggirl Mon 19-Nov-12 15:54:52

My dd chose the same A levels as yours, maths, french, physics and music

She got and A* a yr early for gcse maths and found Alevel hard , she only did physics to As level.

Depends if your dd is set on doing degree that needs maths I would advise choosing something else .

ReallyTired Mon 19-Nov-12 15:57:33

I think that if your dd wants to do A level physics then A level maths is a good idea. Not doing maths closes off a lot of options. Maybe she would benefit from a tutor to help her with holes in her maths. I can sympathise with being screamed at. My ten year old has told me that I am clueless about maths (inspite of having a physics degree)

A-level maths is very different to GCSE. I got a B for both GCSE and A-level. In many ways I found that A-level maths was easier than GCSE. Twenty years ago A-level maths was doing lots of complex sums where as GCSE involved understanding lots of word problems. I suggest she looks at BBC bite size or Khan Academy to improve her understanding of fractions or negative numbers. There is so much for free on the internet she can't really blame poor maths teaching.

Would it be possible for her to do 4 A levels to begin with.

bruffin Mon 19-Nov-12 16:51:02

Ds has just discovered Khan Academy, he thinks it's brilliant. He is yr 11 doing maths, further maths , physics and philosophy.

musicmadness Mon 19-Nov-12 18:09:00

I did maths and further maths and didn't find it difficult TBH, maths has always been my thing!

My school allowed anyone with a B or above to enter for A level and most people seemed to find it very tough. I tutored friends who were on a high A at GCSE who were dropping to C/D or lower at AS level, if she is not very maths focussed I think she will struggle.

She may well need to take Maths if she wants to take Physics though, the physics A level uses maths A level calculations. It needs to be both or neither TBH, assuming she wants to do Physics more than Maths. A lot of schools only allow you to take Physics if you are doing Maths to AS level at least.

circular Mon 19-Nov-12 19:14:19

Thanks for all the replies - plenty food for thought here.

MagiM - When you took maths GCSE early, what did you do the next year? One of the sixth forms we have seen were concerned that DD is sitting Maths in March, as if she gets her desired grade then, may not have done any maths for 7 months.

Bruffin - not come across anywhere with maths being compulsory for Physics yet, just preferable. But some want an A in Maths and B in Physics to take Physics

Can understand the overlap in Physics and Applied Maths (Mechanincs) but some schools only do one M and one S module, so don't touch mechanincs until the second year of Maths.

DeWe - That's really useful to know. DD is definitely in the camp of not putting the work in. She generally rises to the challenge when it get;s serious and has historically always done better in the real exam than any tests/mocks.

hatsbatsy - yes yr11. We have to make most of the sixth from applications in January. All of the (oversubscribed) schools we will be applying for warn that it is unlikely choices can be changed. I understand there's some room for manouvre on results day, but depends on how full the courses are.
No -definitely not a maths whizz and does not want a Maths career. Wants to do a Music degree and teach Music.

glaurung - yes they do sound alike. DD can get confused about the simplest concept., but can understand some of the more complex stuff.
We see the sense in applying for other subjects BUT everything else has been ruled out. It's frustrating - she doesn't NEED maths, actually prefers it to Physics but feels obliged to do Physics as she is better at it than any other subject.

Newferry - yes she has spoken to her teacher, who says she should be able to do it but will need to work hard. Says she is more than capable of getting an A, probably not an A* but would love to be proved wrong. Mock coming up soon, but it won't be possible to get more than A in that from the work covered.

ReallyTired - I have a 10 yr old too. DD helps her with her maths grin
20 years ago - if only. I did A level maths over 30 years ago. A massive jump then as the O level was 'modern' and the A level traditional. Got an A at O'level (no A* then) and sailed through the 1st year of A level, still on track for an A. Then crashed and burned on the applied in the second year and ended up with a C.
Not sure what you mean by 4 A levels to begin with? Thought it was usual to start wtih $ AS and drop one?
That Khan looks brilliant. Will show DD but could easily get addicted myself.

It looks like the general consensus is 'Don't do Maths if you don't need it unless you really love it' I can feel (another) serious talk with her coming on.
Not a clue what else she can do though. Maybe being an A/B grade student overall, she should be setting her lower and looking at more vocational subjects. She's at an averagish comp where she is considered a 'high acheiver' so it would be ublikely that they would allow 3 AS only.

SecretSquirrels Mon 19-Nov-12 19:32:16

DS1 did maths GCSE a year early and then did statistics in y11. He got A* in both but not everyone did.
The school said Stats was useful if they did A level, however DS has not found that to be true. He kept up to date in Maths by working at home but I doubt that most of his peers did (might be one reason some of them are struggling with the A level?).
I am very much against early entry because I think it benefits the school more than the pupil.

safflower Mon 19-Nov-12 19:50:53

DS did maths very early, has always been a whizz at maths. He started the A level, and dropped it after a month. The leap from gcse to A level was huge.

MagiMingeWassailsAgain Mon 19-Nov-12 19:56:51

I did the OA level (not sure that still exists! I'm at the wrong end of my thirties now) and I failed that too. I know - why on earth did they still let me do the A level??

noblegiraffe Mon 19-Nov-12 20:19:18

My school also does statistics GCSE with the top sets, but they do it in Y10 and then their maths GCSE in Y11 so there isn't a big break where they don't do any algebra. It's ridiculous that some schools do it the other way around, it really affects their chances at A-level.

ThatVikRinA22 Mon 19-Nov-12 20:23:36

my son got an A at GCSE maths and an A* at physics.

he flunked both subjects - he did 3 years to claw something back but he really struggled.

he is now doing a computer science degree, but dont underestimate how tough the leap from GCSE to Alevel is - it really really caught him out and he was often very distressed - he also has some special needs (AS/dyspraxia/dyslexia) and i think the lack of support didnt help.

titchy Mon 19-Nov-12 20:33:07

She clearly doesn't need either maths or physics. Both are hard, so why doesn't she do one 'fluffy' subject for fun, and one semi-soft? Maybe new subjects such as psychology, philosophy, sociology, media studies? She still has two traditional subjects and presumably is a decent standard musician so RG standard institutions should make offers on that basis.

Milliways Mon 19-Nov-12 20:52:24

My DD took Maths just because she thought the Uni's she applied to (for languages) would want this to show she could do "hard" subjects. (She took Maths, Eng Lit & 2 languages to full A2 + history AS)

She never found it easy, but she was determined - so she basically did every past paper available over & over until she perfected them! She managed an A in the end, but it was a real slog.

prettydaisies Mon 19-Nov-12 20:55:29

DD did GCSE maths at the the end of Y10. She then did additional maths in y11.

circular Mon 19-Nov-12 21:05:45

nobelgiraffe - DD's school used to do that but scrapped Stats from her year. Now the lower sets take Maths in november to get 3 shots, the top set in march, so 2 shots if necessary. More about maxing the A*to C's I guess.

titchy - What you are saying sort of maths sense. We sat in on a psychology presentation and she was consindering it instead of Physics. But then saw the A2 year was heavy on essay writing so said she would be starting with the mindset of taking AS only. She would prefer to have a choice what to drop. Media and Sociolgy have never appealed.
At one point she was considering Geography but is finding it increasingly difficult., and no longer enjoys it. Same with Chemistry. Her Biology has improved recently, but she has always found it more difficult than Physics.
She enjoyed Drama but dropped it for GCSE, and although could pick it up for A level, thinks the written element will be too much for her.

She really cannot write - she worked her socks off in English language last year, had 10 hours individual tuition and attends a study centre for 1hr20 each week, She scraped a B after a re-mark.

I'm secretly wondering whether she is trying to keep her academic options open in case she does not make the grade in Music.
As for RG institutions, perhaps, but most want at least ABB for Music.

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