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How important is Further Maths for science A levels?

(44 Posts)
Blu Sun 13-Mar-16 12:01:12

DS, Yr 10, is doing well at school, predicted a row of As and A* and the equivalent in new money.
He is very keen on the sciences and plans science A levels, and some sort of biochemistry degree, maybe.
However he is losing confidence in Maths and while he is doing well in 'regular maths' he thinks he is doing badly at Further Maths - the pace is fast as they are doing both GCSEs in the same time as one.
He thinks if he does badly in this terms's test he should drop Further Maths.
I am not sure if this is a confidence thing, or an ability thing.
Or how important further maths would be to his future options?
And whether we should get some outside support?
Or whether it would be better to drop Further Maths and be more sure of a top mark for regular maths?

Last year they had a terrible maths teacher (now left the school....), very few of the class met (top set) their targets and he kept up by teaching himself from the internet.

RedHelenB Sun 13-Mar-16 12:12:14

Think it is mainly of benefit to those doing physics at A level

Thelwell Sun 13-Mar-16 12:18:35

I agree with Red Helen, although not familiar with current curriculum for any...but in the dark ages I did maths, chemistry and biology and survived just fine. Most doing physics found taking maths and further maths (all at a-level, I mean) was pretty helpful for getting top grade physics.

OhYouBadBadKitten Sun 13-Mar-16 13:08:48

my instinct is that with the new maths gcse there isn't so much need for gcse further maths and that he would be better off getting one really good maths gcse.

He may at some point need to consider whether his maths is strong enough to carry on at a level, but he doesnt need to think about that at the moment.

tiggytape Sun 13-Mar-16 16:17:35

noblegiraffe would be the poster who knows about this but the feedback we've had is the same as BadBadKitten's - the new maths GCSE is more difficult and has greater content so is a better preparation for A Levels. As such the further maths GCSE isn't necessarily as helpful in acting as a stepping stone between the two as it once was.
Of course if he is brilliant at maths and this is just a blip then it might be a shame to drop it. Will his teacher advise after the next set of tests?

Blu Sun 13-Mar-16 17:27:18

Thanks everyone.

He seems good at Maths - he said his ordinary maths test was 'high average' compared to other pupils in the top set of a 'doing well' comp. Not a maths genius but very competent, and he enjoys it.

He hadn't been considering a Maths A level I think - unless he did it alongside Chemistry, Biology and Physics.

After the February tests, which he felt he did badly in, he has been given a target of 8 for GCSE Maths and B for Further Maths.

AtiaoftheJulii Sun 13-Mar-16 17:34:28

You can do science A levels without maths A level (although physics is probably easier with, as long as the school arrange the modules in a sensible order, not all do!) so I don't see why further maths gcse would be particularly helpful - most people don't do it after all.

TalkinPeace Sun 13-Mar-16 17:49:42

You can do science A levels without maths A level
You can, but by golly you'll struggle

DD is currently doing Maths and two sciences at A level
her college has hundreds and hundreds of students doing sciences and maths
those taking physics are nadgered without maths
those taking chemistry REALLY struggle without maths
those taking biology struggle on large parts of it without maths

AtiaoftheJulii Sun 13-Mar-16 18:55:45

Yes, I think that if you can do maths, you should, especially with sciences. But if the OP's dc doesn't want to do maths A level, then I think further maths gcse is neither here nor there, and probably not worth worrying about.

PurpleDaisies Sun 13-Mar-16 18:58:25

You absolutely do not need further maths for science A levels. Normal maths is a huge advantage for physics, especially if you can do mechanics options instead of stats.

PurpleDaisies Sun 13-Mar-16 18:59:23

Sorry, I'm a physics teacher, currently tutoring all three sciences and maths up to a level. You don't need a level maths for biology and chemistry.

LineyReborn Sun 13-Mar-16 19:03:50

noblegiraffe gave me fantastic advice on this last year.

DS ended up with regular and additional higher maths A* and A, but the Further Maths teaching after school was a shambles (teacher no-show situation). NG pointed us towards some resources and he got B. Yay. smile

At A level, it has helped him with Maths and Physics, but only inasmuch as it has shown him that he can self-teach iykwim.

PurpleDaisies Sun 13-Mar-16 19:04:34

Argh-totally misread the op. Further maths GCSE isn't offered in the majority of schools. There's no issue with your ds doing it or not doing it before starting his a levels. He might want to carefully consider whether or not to do physics a level if maths isn't a huge strength.

EricNorthmanSucks Sun 13-Mar-16 19:07:36

At one of our local schools they offer a weekly maths session to those students studying science A levels without maths.

To bridge I suppose.

Alanna1 Sun 13-Mar-16 19:11:52

Talk to the school. Main thing I'd say is that Maths A level is quite a big step from Maths GCSE.

RayofFuckingSunshine Sun 13-Mar-16 19:16:39

Maths a level is a huge step up from maths GCSE, I would imagine further maths GCSE would bridge this somewhat.

It would also be worth considering what it is he is actually wanting to do as a career in terms of a level decisions. Me and H both did electrical engineering degrees. He had maths A level, I didn't. I ended up having to do a foundation year at university just to bring my maths up to scratch for the rest of the programme. If he's considering a physics based subject at a higher level, maths a level will be worth the time, and if doing the maths a level I would advise studying the further maths GCSE material.

noblegiraffe Sun 13-Mar-16 19:44:39

while he is doing well in 'regular maths' he thinks he is doing badly at Further Maths

That might just be his perception - to get an A in maths GCSE you need about 65% but in further maths only about 50%. In addition, he's only in Y10, by Y11 his algebra will be much better and he may find that the further maths falls into place. A kid who's on track for an 8 should be able to get at least an A in further maths. If they are taught both in the same lessons, then if he drops further maths what will he do in that time?

Apart from that, if he wants to go into the sciences at uni, he should be seriously considering maths A-level. If he is going to do physics A-level then he should be seriously considering maths A-level. He will find things more difficult without it. If he decides to do maths A-level, then he should probably keep up with the further maths. I understand the previous comments about the new maths GCSE being better preparation for A-level, but that would be the old maths A-level. We still don't know what the new maths A-level will look like, but it will probably be harder than the old one, in which case there will still be a gap to bridge and further maths would help.

Bolognese Sun 13-Mar-16 19:55:01

very good point noble about the potential new a-level gap. I have been in 2 minds about further maths for my dc and that point has probably swung me.

Blu Sun 13-Mar-16 20:45:00

noblegiraffe - thank you so much: very helpful. And your observations about percentages have cheered hi up no end; they are tested on the GCSE modules they have done and last time he got 52% in further maths....

The further maths group are doing Maths and Further Maths in a total of 3 periods a week - ne extra time for the further maths. So if he dropped further maths he would simply revert to the set below which is doing Maths in 3 periods a week.

Leeds2 Sun 13-Mar-16 23:01:07

Fwiw, my DD is doing A Level (A2 this year) biology and chemistry on the basis of an A* maths at IGCSE. She did not do Further Maths at IGCSE, and is not doing Maths at A Level.

Think it might be different if she were doing Physics.

catslife Mon 14-Mar-16 09:17:02

For the new linear A level Chemistry, the level of maths required is slightly more difficult than the old syllabus being taken by current Y13s. So A level maths could be more of an advantage.
Having said that dds school don't offer GCSE Further (or Additional) Maths and the sixth form still obtain very good results for A level.
For biological Sciences at uni, statistics is most significant part of Maths required whereas for Physics it's Pure Maths and mechanics. So it's not imo quite correct to say that you don't really need Maths for biology.
If your son is considering a Science degree (even Biochemistry) Maths A level would be an advantage. Students can usually apply without A level Maths, but then usually have to take a Maths course at uni to reach the equivalent standard to A level. So if they are capable it's better to take A level Maths in sixth form.

AtticusFlinch Mon 14-Mar-16 09:28:27

A year ago, I took Physics and Maths A-Level - the maths really helps the mechanics part of physics enormously and vice versa, I would have struggled without doing both. Not doing Further Maths A-Level or GCSE wasn't an issue for me though. In your son's situation, I would stick with it for now but keep an eye on things. To make the jump between GCSE and A-Level it's the basics that you need to be really solid on, like expanding out brackets, factorisation, transformation of graphs and vectors (if they're still done at GCSE). People in my year who struggled with them at GCSE fell behind quickly at A-Level.

noblegiraffe Mon 14-Mar-16 09:34:30

Having said that dds school don't offer GCSE Further (or Additional) Maths and the sixth form still obtain very good results for A level.

It's not A-level results so much that the further maths helps with, the kids who make it to Y13 are probably going to do well. What further maths helps with is reducing the number of kids who fail AS or drop out before they even get there.

Bunbaker Mon 14-Mar-16 09:45:58

"those taking biology struggle on large parts of it without maths"

DD hates maths and absolutely does not want to do maths A level, but she wants to do biology. She got an A* for IGCSE maths that she took in January this year. Will this be sufficient?

She will start year 12 in September BTW.

catslife Mon 14-Mar-16 10:28:04

I think your dd should be OK bunbaker as she has reached a very good standard for her iGCSE. My experience is that the students who struggle most with the Maths components for Chemistry and Biology A levels are those who only just scraped a grade B at GCSE or even obtained a grade C. (Most sixth forms require a minimum grade B at GCSE for taking Science A level).
Many sixth forms now offer Maths support for pupils taking a Science subject but not Maths so this is something else you can check out.

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