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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. 

Dragonwoman Mon 19-Nov-12 21:19:30

Philosophy isn't a fluffy subject! It's actually very hard to get a good grade.

titchy Mon 19-Nov-12 21:39:34

Yes you're right dragon - I was putting philosophy into the 2nd tier, rather than the fluffy 3rd tier (cambrudge suggestions).

Ah, so she doesn't write. Hmmmm. Psychology and Music Tech? Maybe psychology and maths but drop maths after AS? For RG offers A in music and Bs from any other two would be ok.

glaurung Mon 19-Nov-12 21:49:08

I think it's very sensible to keep as many options open as possible and have a backup plan if the music doesn't work out. No question maths is extremely highly regarded, it's more a question of whether she will do well enough at it for it to be worthwhile or if she'd be better getting a higher grade at something else. Psychology seems to be a marmite subject that people either like or loathe. You need a crystal ball to know in advance how your dd will take to these. Physics at A level is also a lot harder than at GCSE. With the essays, dd doesn't like them either, but finds with things like geography and psychology where you are writing about something specific it's a lot easier than real English essays. The writing side of geography and even biology gets tougher at A2 than at AS as well as psychology.

I found my thread from last year when dd was choosing subjects here, it may be of interest, as may the one where she was switching subjects

Horsemad Tue 20-Nov-12 17:59:57

I'm having similar thoughts about my DS's choice for A level. He is in Yr11 & is hoping to do Maths, Further Maths, Chem and Physics!! At the recent 6th form evening, the maths dept were saying 'unless you are passionate about maths then don't bother.' He's very bright but VERY lazy & I personally think he'll struggle - he's not a natural at maths so it's going to be interesting. He wants to do Computer Science which all ask for A level Maths so he's got to do it.

kalidasa Tue 20-Nov-12 19:49:09

It's out of date (I did GCSEs mid-90s) but like everyone else I remember a big shift post-GCSE, though in my case it was in my favour. I did GCSE maths early and had always been solidly in the top set but not right at the top; in the term or two after we took the GCSE we did AO or OA or something? Some sort of intermediate thing anyway (this was before intermediate AS). And it was so much more interesting. Suddenly I saw the point of maths and really enjoyed it. I was also suddenly one of the best as lots who had been better than me and less prone to silly mistakes at GCSE struggled with the new stuff. It was odd as I'd never thought of myself as very good at maths really. If I'd had that experience earlier I would definitely have done A level maths - especially as I moved for sixth form to a school where almost everyone did A level maths and I think the teaching of it was fantastic - but it was a bit late by then, I'd already chosen other stuff.

So anyway just thought it was worth pointing out that the big change presumably works to the advantage of some people. Worth being sure she wouldn't be in that category?

circular Tue 20-Nov-12 20:51:09

glaurung - thanks for the link. Read the choices one with interest, but second link did not work. So how did it go for your DD after it changed and what is she doing now?

titchy - she's not keen on music tech, composing and production are the bits she least enjoys. Only school we've seen so far offering it is her own, and that's just the BTEC. Thought about the really fluffy 'Performing Arts' A level. No exam, all coursework, and also clashes with French (and maths) at her school.

I have spoken to DD again asking her if she is realy sure, and she says she is. It's her choice, but I wish she would look a bit more closely at some of the subjects she has ruled out - maybe RS or Geography.

Maybe I should be glad that she is chosing 'proper' subjects - many threads seem to be about trying steer the DC's away from softer options.

Thinking back now over the GCSE option choices when I convinced her not to drop triple science in favour of either Drama or Catering. She regretted it for about a week, and then said it was the best decision she made.

circular Tue 20-Nov-12 20:58:16

kalidasa - It's highly possible she is in that second category. Since the start of this term, they have only been doing the A/A* topics, and she is one of only 3 or 4 in her group that generally gets them first time.

I'm guessing that is why her teacher (new for this term) is saying she won't have a probem.

My concerns come from her not knowing fairly basic stuff, or sometimes where to start on answering a question, and missing the really obvious.

glaurung Wed 21-Nov-12 19:42:18

Sorry about the link circular, let me try again here

She's still very glad she switched to psychology, enjoying that and biology most of the four and finding chemistry the hardest. She's been quite ill this term with suspected whooping cough (in spite of being vaccinated) and missed a fair bit, so I'm not sure how the Jan exams might go. We shall see.

strictlovingmum Wed 21-Nov-12 20:29:50

DS final year of A levels, doing maths, further maths, physics and chem, A* in maths at GCSE's, solid hard working mathematician who indeed found maths very hard at the beginning of AS.
6th form where DS is, would not even consider taking students with B in maths at GCSE, and also physics department strongly advised physics with maths.
His study day consist of five hour a day, three dedicated to maths/further and two hours alternating physics and chem, good luck to your dd if she goes down this route.
Horsemad, good luck to your DS if this combo is what he really wants to do, hard is understatement when it comes to this combination of subjects, but it is the top combination, tell him to brace himself.

Horsemad Wed 21-Nov-12 21:32:16

Thanks strictlovingmum to say I'm dreading it is an understatement! I really hope he proves me wrong and totally exceeds my expectations.

Good Luck to your son in his final year, what does he hope to do ultimately?

circular Thu 22-Nov-12 07:31:44

Thanks Glaurung glad the switch is working well for your DD. Guess you need to act sharpish in those first few weeks if subject not right. The Geography comment about it being the smallest leap is interesting. I put that one to DD but to no avail.

Horsemad - Is the Further Maths really necessary for computing? (or is he looking at a Maths or Physics degree first?) That's where the real passion is needed. Agree maths & sciences, but what about a contrasting 4th subject (English, History, Geography, Philosophy, Economics)?  If your DS is looking to work in I.T, communication skills are also key. 

StrictlovingMum - good luck to your son, that sounds heavy going. I know DD will have 4 hard subjects if she goes ahead, but at least the music will be her light(er) relief.

Not sure I fully understand the need to take maths with physics in (some) schools where they take S1 with AS and M1 with A2. So no mechanics until 2nd year. Unless the AS pure is needed for AS physics? Would it work to drop maths at AS but continue with physics, or is vice versa mor normal?

It"s so hard when you see them making life more difficult for themselves than necessary. 
But DD is convinced it will be much worse if she has to write essays. Although the written work in French doesn't bother her. 

glaurung Thu 22-Nov-12 09:28:58

circular, you may find that maths is a good choice for your dd. The fact she learns new topics quickly and actively chose the subject is a pretty good sign. With my dd she preferred the other subjects and disliked maths and I think needed to go over topics several times before she got them (often only to forget them again later). The other subjects they (or you) were considering seem similar as does their dislike of writing, but that doesn't mean they are similar in other respects too. I think if you are prepared to practice the questions and have a reasonable intuition for it, maths can be quite an easy A level, but you almost need a crystal ball to know in advance. I would say a lot of dc do seem to change their minds about their subjects and switch in the early weeks of the course too, so if she does find she's made a mistake with her choices it's not the end of the world (though timetable and space issues can prevent the desired switch sometimes).

Horsemad Fri 23-Nov-12 16:59:41

circular he doesn't need FM, but seems adamant he wants to do it confused I have suggested either English, Geography or History as he has a real flair for these sibjects.

MamaChocoholic Fri 23-Nov-12 17:09:51

I took maths not because I loved it, but because it was my easiest subject. Didn't work hard at it, but it had no essay writing! That, and the fact that it took me ages to get things like dividing fractions and negative numbers sounds like your dd. I ended up doing maths at A level and university. A level was harder work, but so much more interesting than GCSE that I finally found I loved the subject. So... I guess I'm saying don't necessarily dismiss it.

Oh, and my mum was a maths teacher and I never listened to her try and explain it either!

Horsemad Fri 23-Nov-12 17:19:59

Haha MamaChocoholic! I have my doubts whether my DS will accept his dad's help even though he will almost undoubtedly need it!

circular Sat 24-Nov-12 13:11:04

Mamachocoholic - that sounds a lot like DD. She's getting the neg numbers now, and she's been doing some algebra stuff that has involved fraction division so getting back to basics as they are needed, rather than just for the sake of it.

It looks like she will stick with maths and physics, so we have the bigger problem now of finding her a half decent sixth form that is preferably also strong on Music.

Having now been to her own sixth form open day, she feels more strongly about the subjects than staying there. Seen 3 others so far, and finding it's typically between 40 and 80 places for hundreds of applicants. And these are "good comps",  
No more open evenings till Jan now, but need to start getting the forms filled in. They"re all different too! 

Seriously worried that she may be without a place. When it's so selective, what can an A/B student do 

socharlotte Sat 24-Nov-12 17:26:26

Think carefully about physics.It is difficult particularly at A2.Much much harder than maths

Honu Sat 24-Nov-12 21:05:53

I am a maths tutor with a lot of A level students among my pupils.

A level maths is a whole different ball game from GCSE and rewards a different set of talents. At GCSE those who work hard and are accurate do well. To succeed at A level you have to have some maths flair as well and be able to 'see round' the questions.

I haven't yet seen anyone recommending the mymaths website to fill in the y8&9 gaps - most schools have a subscription to this and a bright pupil should be able to use this to plug any omissions.

circular Sat 24-Nov-12 21:46:22

Thanks Honu.
Yes DD's school does use Mymaths, much of the homework set on it.
She does do some of the extension work if she wants more practice on a topic, but has not thought of going back over earlier years work.

Hoping it's not too little too late as the immediate problem is to do well enough in the mock to get an A* prediction. Without that she may not get any school offers, as there will be so many applying for maths that do have that.

MamaChocoholic Sun 25-Nov-12 07:35:58

For me the difference was that at GCSE you were expected to learn and apply a set of rules, whereas at A level you were expected to understand where the rules came from. So while it took me ages to learn to remember which formula was for the area or perimeter or a circle at GCSE, at A level I only had to know how to integrate to derive the formula for a volume of a sphere or any object.

circular, if your dd is keen, then explain to her the situation. if she wants to move schools so she can do the courses she wants to, then she will have to prove to them she is the best person for their place, by getting an a* prediction. Can you ask her teacher what she needs to do to get that predicted grade?

exoticfruits Sun 25-Nov-12 07:48:34

As people say, it is a huge leap from GCSE to A'level.
DS1managed it and ended up with an A but DS3 went to the first lesson and changed subjects. It depends on the individual.

AnnoyedAtWork Sun 25-Nov-12 07:54:23

Haven't read all the other threads but if she is taking physics it would be a good idea to take maths especially as her other subjects seem a bit random ( what does she want to do at uni?)

I say this from experience as I was doing physics history and German, wanted to do biology but was convinced by head teacher to do maths instead, I hated gcse maths but loved a level and ended up doing it at uni. If you want to do physics at uni you need maths a level too

circular Sun 25-Nov-12 10:21:33

Mamachocoholic - Findng the same. A recent practice paper question that was essentially algebra frustrated her as she could not remember the formula for the volume of a cone and a sphere.
Yes, both her and I have spoken to the maths teacher about the sixth form situation. The teacher's only known her this term, and so far has not seen anything that would put her above a middle 'A', so a lot will hinge on the mocks this week, as well as her work the rest of the term. Suspect there will be an edn of term test too, as they are tested every 6 weeks now. DD is defintiely not working her hardest (she generally doesn't, until it's the real thing) and also has 3 music exams this term amongst other things.
Parents meeting early Jan, so will get a final chance to discuss before most of the applications due in.

Madamet - Physics has been chosen more recently as it;s her best subject. Maths was always on the agenda as she's not an essay writer and knows she can get help with it at home.

She wants to do Music at university, more biased towards performance. Hopes to teach music, preferably instuments but keeping options open there. Primary school teaching with a music specialism lower down on the list. in which case at least one core subject is necessary. Otherwise, for a Music degree at an RG University, most subjects will do.

glaurung Sun 25-Nov-12 10:59:22

maths A level would be a real bonus for primary school teaching.

Milliways Sun 25-Nov-12 14:28:49

My DS's goal for many years has been to be a Primary teacher (maybe with the TeachFirst scheme) which is why he wanted Maths, English a science & humanity in his A levels - to cover the core curriclum, and he hopes to do Maths as a joint honours degree - which leaves his options open for secondary teaching if Primary does not work out.

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