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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. 

circular Thu 03-Jan-13 17:39:44

wol1968 - I'm her only external support for Maths currently. Works OK when she is wiling to listen, but I am not a teacher, and did A'level in 1979. Also OU foundation and level 2 Maths stuff more recently, so not completely rusty.

I would be willing to get her a tutor if she was struggling, but she does not want one.
She willingly still attends a weekly study centre for English, where Maths is also avaialble. May discuss the possibility of changing over, as the English is more geared up for language, which she has already taken, and the tutor does not seem to be much help with Lit.

circular Thu 03-Jan-13 17:27:38

Copthall - I've heard that about Chemistry too. Been told (by several 6th form students taking both) that Physics is by far the smallest leap.

I am sure DD is capable of an A* in Maths. But there is no way the school will predict it, so that will go against her on the applications. So the student that get's predicted an A* and gets an offer, but subsequently gets an A, will still get their place. But the student that gets a predicted an A and does not get an offer, but subsequently gets an A* (or A) will not.

Seems to be some unfairness going on with the predictions too. Schools without 6th forms being more generous, schools with 6th foms being less so as the student can always stay there.

Difficult to say if she is a 'natural' mathematician, as she thinks so differently to me in maths (I was supposedly a natural, but cannot do Physics). As long as she understands a maths problem, she is surprisingly fast and seldom slips up. I can help her to an extent, finding suitable questions on line etc. which we have been doing this week to try and fill the gaps. Not sure I will be much help at A'level, especially if she does the mechanics options.

Yes, her first choice of school is the best one for Music. Not exactly applying for any 'top' schools, all between 500 and 1500 on the latest FT list. But the 3 which have outstanding music provision (none have music specialism) are ranked the highest - so probably the hardest to get offers for.

Copthallresident Thu 03-Jan-13 13:50:31

My daughter did Sciences and Maths at A level and Chemistry was the one that tripped people up, including students with places for Medicine. I would be very sure you want to, and can do, Chemistry before you embark on an A level, by far the biggest leap from GCSE to A level. I would certainly not do it to fit in with a school timetable.

Maths on the other hand was one even those doing it because they thought they should, rather than wanting to / being good at it, did OK on.

My second daughter is in no way a natural Mathematician, doing all essay subjects at A level, but to our amazement cleared an A* at GCSE. If your daughter gets her head down and just works away at past papers, with text books or your worked examples to look up anything she cannot do, she can surely get an A* .

I am in awe of anyone who can do Music A level, surely the subject, if any that you absolutely need talent to do well in. I think I would focus on getting her somewhere that will give her the best chance of pursuing that interest and talent.

wol1968 Thu 03-Jan-13 12:32:43

I did A-level maths when I didn't really want to (I'd have preferred biology but clashes prevented me). Got an A at O-level, but A-level was a huge jump, with a different school, different teachers, different exam board. Plus I think we got a Pure Maths teacher who came from the Professor Binns school of class engagement. The only one out of our group who got a decent grade was the one who was banging on the staffroom door four days out of five - I didn't have the motivation or energy for that. It was a miracle I scraped an E in the end.

If your daughter does go for Maths, make sure she has good external support should the school teaching not fulfil her learning needs.

circular Tue 01-Jan-13 12:01:12

oldpeculiar - re physics, at some of the 6th form open evenings, we have been told that of the 3 sciences, physics is the one that has the smallest leap from GCSE. Does it depend on the boards? Currently taking OCR, all of the schools we have seen either do OCR or EDEXCEL.

They are still doing new stuff in maths, but I think nearly completed the syllabus. Hope so anyway, as taking GCSE in Feb/Mar. I have spoken to DD's maths teacher re her ability to take Maths A level and they feel she is capable. She has been predicted an A at GCSE as she only got a B in the mock (was not possible to get more than an A, due to work not covered).

She has cracked the negative numbers now, though fractions not coming natuarally yet. Yes, I recall doing both these at primary, but DD2 in yr5 at good primary not done them yet.

Biggest worry is finding a school. She has her heart set on a school that is great for music, but has about 600 applicants for ~ 50 external places. Although the maths min. requirement is A, I am sure there will be enough applications with A* predictions to get the places, so cannot help thinking she is more likely to gain a place without Maths. Of the few external students I have known gain places at that school, ALL have had straight A*/A predictions (although not necessarily acheived them, and most not musicians). DD's predictions are A* for Physics, B for Eng & Geog and A for everything else.

We have other schools to see. All the schools we are looking at are between 500 and 1500 in the FT list, so don't think we are aiming too high for an A/B student.

I do wonder though, that the 3 with the best music departments are the highest on the list.

oldpeculiar Mon 31-Dec-12 23:00:29

physics a level , especially A2 is difficult, I think most people would agree harder than maths a level.It bears very little resemblance to GCSE physics.
I think they should have covered most of the maths syllabus by now, especially the top set.I would be speaking to the maths department as it seems as though she possibly has some fairly major gaps in her knowledge. eg negative numbers and dividing fractions are covered at primary school in Y5 I think

circular Sun 30-Dec-12 11:00:36

Psychology is quite a popular one at DD's current school - usually have 4 AS groups for it. They insist on GCSE grades of B in Eng and Maths, with B in a science desirable. No mention on compatible A levels.
Maths GCSE contains more statistics than I remember for O level, so maybe that's why.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sun 30-Dec-12 09:53:53

Is she OK to take Psychology without the additional statistics teaching that she would have got via the Maths A level? I know (years ago!) everyone in my school doing Psych was strongly advised to do Statistics as well. One to check, or maybe anyone with more recent experience of Psychology A Level could comment?

circular Sat 29-Dec-12 22:37:09

cakebar The original doubts came more me, as DD does not seem interested enough in Maths. it's more a case of being the less of two evils with essay writing. Unfortunately, she did not work hard enough before her mock to socre well enough for an A* prediction, so will be applying to schools with only an A prediction, which will lessen her chances of getting a place. Hence the needing to choose other siubjects to stay at her own school.
She will be very disappointed if she cannot do Physics though, as that's the only subject she does have an A* prediction in.

I did A level maths (and Computing) myself. It was a big jump from O'level then, but there were C grade students taking it. We were warned it was difficult, but not discouraged.

Maybe it has got harder now (or GCSE is easier than O'level). I was told at one sixth form open day that statistically, students with a B at GCSE Maths do not get more than a D at AS.

cakebar Sat 29-Dec-12 22:00:39

I have just read the thread for the first time, and was so glad to see that maths is still on the table. My own experience was an A* at maths GCSE and a maths teacher that consistently told the top set that maths A level was too hard and to avoid. The 6th form college didn't do much to dispel that. I didn't even consider it. Having subsequently studied computer science and worked in a technical field I think I could have managed and have regrets. Is there any wonder that we think there is a lack of good scientists/engineers etc when we discourage children from continuing maths study to 18. The worst that can happen is she starts it, then has to switch after a term if she can't cope. Good luck to her.

I did chemistry stand alone and had no issues, it was an enjoyable subject, a good mix of maths, logic, practical experiments and understanding impact on the real world. I don't think there is much point in computing a level.

circular Sat 29-Dec-12 19:24:41

Thanks Titchy, that's good to know
Can't think where I got the A'level core subject requirement from though.

titchy Sat 29-Dec-12 19:01:55

You need all three core at GCSE but not A level - google GTTR entry requirements.

circular Sat 29-Dec-12 18:41:49

I remember reading somewhere that, for primary teaching, at least one core subject (Eng, maths, science) is required. In addition, other curricular subjects (MFL, humanities, art/music) are desirable.

So fine with her preferred choices of Music, French, Physics, Maths.
But may need to tread carefully with the alternatives - doubt if Psych counts as a science.

But not sure if that's just for going for a BEd straight after A levels.
May be different if taking a BMus first.

titchy Sat 29-Dec-12 18:23:37

Does she definitely need a science to do primary? French and music would both be good primary offers.

circular Sat 29-Dec-12 16:40:55

I think if she did Psych she may want to drop that because of the essay writing. But then again, if chem was too difficult, that may be better to drop.

Wants to do BMus if she can, then the teaching qualification after.
Not sure if that makes a difference as to whether she would still need the core subject to A2.

titchy Sat 29-Dec-12 16:19:50

Doesn't seem any point in computing or drama. Psych and bio would be a good fit. Psych and Chem would also work - does she know which she'd drop at A2 - that might help? Music French and psych seem like a good combo to do to A2.... and would keep option open to do BMus or BEd.

circular Sat 29-Dec-12 13:54:17

DD has now decided to stick with Music, French, Physics & Maths. So these will be her choices in ALL external applications.
She has applied to her own school explaining the clashes, and it is unlikely that they can be addressed. So to continue with that application, needs to come up with two alternative options to take Maths & Physics. Although she cannot see herself taking ANY other subjects, she feels she needs to do this for a last ditch insurance option (ie. If she gets NO external offers, or does not make the grade in maths).

We started by looking at all the other GCSE’s she is taking and ranking in order of preference, giving Chemistry, Biology. Geography, Eng Lit, Eng Lang. Then went on to completely rule out Geog & Eng. She has A predictions for both Chem. & Bio (and ‘a’ in first modules), finding Chem difficult this term although prefers it to Bio which she has never liked, although is performing better at.

Then went on to look at possible subjects not taking for GCSE, and came up with Psychology, Drama, Computing & Media as possibilities. All other subjects now either ruled out or clash with Music or French

So, two subjects to choose, from the remaining three option blocks. Both Chem and Bio in separate blocks, although Bio clashes with Media. Psychology, Drama & Computing all in same block.
To keep the primary school teaching option open, she will need to keep at least one science.
Would Chemistry on its own make sense? Or would it be better with Psychology?
Would Drama be too heavy a workload on top of Music?
Is Computing pretty pointless, especially without Maths?

Somehow, Music, French, Drama & Chemistry does not sound quite right.
Is Music, French, Chemistry & Psychology any better?

HELP – we are on the verge of putting all the non-clashing combinations in a hat.
(although this is only for the insurance choice, she could end up taking them if unlucky)

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.

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

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

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.

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

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.

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?

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.

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.

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