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Should DS take A Level maths?

(35 Posts)
RedskyAtnight Fri 19-Jun-20 15:07:43

DS's dilemma (he's in Year 11, running out of time to make decision).

He definitely wants to study Geography A Level next year.

He is quite keen on the idea of studying Physics A Level, but he would have to also take A Level maths, which he doesn't want to do.

He has ruled out studying basically every other subject.
The only other thing he's vaguely interested in is the Cambridge Tech IT Diploma (equivalent to 2 A Levels) because he's liked studying Computer Science (not offered at A Level at his current school and he doesn't want to move) at GCSE. I'm not sure this is right for him, because actually he's mostly enjoyed the programming aspect, which isn't included in this qualification, and I'm not sure where he goes at 18 after a Geography A Level and a Cambridge Tech IT Diploma.

He might be interested in studying Computer Science at university but again they would want A Level maths. He wasn't desperately keen on the idea of going into an IT related apprenticeship (which is the only thing I can think of that would naturally follow on from the Cambridge Tech). It does look like at least some universities would take him onto a Geography degree with Geog A Level plus the IT diploma, so that's a possible future option (although I don't know if in practice this would be less preferred than a candidate with 3 A Levels).

His ultimate plan (at the moment) is to join the army. He originally had this as a plan for after sixth form, but after talking to some people we know who are ex-army, he's now thinking he would do better to get some further qualifications first (hence he's started thinking about university).

His teacher assessed GCSE grades are likely to not be that good (erratic worker, plus undiagnosed learning difficulty, was massively improving through Year 11 but we suspect it won't have been enough) but we are not expecting him to have any issues with getting into his school sixth form to study any of these choices (another reason he wants to stay there as there's a good chance he won't make entry criteria for other places). His teachers for all these subjects are happy for him to study them Post 16 (and in respect of maths, his teacher suggested he should also consider further maths, so no concerns about ability).

The problem is that DS just doesn't like maths. He also struggled with some of the later topics they studied, and with the premature end of school has not been able to revise these in the way he normally would. Consequently he has little confidence in his maths ability (not withstanding teacher saying he thinks DS is more than capable of A Level). However, I have a maths degree, and we are in the fortunate position to be able to pay for tutoring if need be, so he can have as much outside help as he needs. I also think maths+physics will be lower workload than 2 unrelated A Levels, so he can spend more time on it if he needs to.

Sorry, that was a long post. I guess my gut feeling is I think he should take maths, physics and geography A Levels, but I also think he shouldn't study a subject he's not keen on. Trouble is there doesn't seem to be an ideal alternative ...

Don't know what others think? Has anyone else been in the position where their DC took an A Level they weren't keen on to enable other choices?

OP’s posts: |
sd249 Fri 19-Jun-20 15:16:23

I'm a maths teacher. If he doesn't like maths he should NOT take it. It is difficult- very difficult and an awful lot of work, the amount of physics in maths is small (1/6th of the course) and the rest is nothing to do with physics so it really wouldn't be less work, especially if he doesn't like it.

However - maybe ask if the school do Core Maths - it's an AS equivalent, much easier and less "mathsy" so he may be able to do physics based on that?

RedskyAtnight Fri 19-Jun-20 15:20:20

Thanks sd249 - that's kind of my feeling as well but I don't know what the alternative is.

His school do do Core maths, but insist you have to study the full A Level to study A Level physics. Shame, as that would be ideal (other than the lack of a third A Level he was interested in ...)

OP’s posts: |
TeenPlusTwenties Fri 19-Jun-20 15:23:42

One of the advantages of the Hampshire system where I live is schools don't (with very few exceptions) have 6th forms so everyone has to move at the end of y11.

It seems to me your DS might be better off moving and going to college to do an Extended Diploma in Computing (Extended Diploma would be 3 A levels equivalent). Is that really definitely not an option?

Maths would be very useful for Geography too, and if they think he is good enough for FM, are they saying he is a shoe in for an 8?

Or again, move 6th forms and do Geography, Computing, Physics and Maths AS?

Would psychology be any good? Or Sociology?

If the Army doesn't work out (eg he gets injured so can't enter) then it would be good to have a decent crop of A levels and a sensible degree if he is academically capable.

RedskyAtnight Fri 19-Jun-20 15:38:21

He definitely wants to do Geography A Level (that's the one certainty) so Extended diploma wouldn't work unfortunately, though I have tried to encourage him to look at college courses to bring other options into play.

His learning difficulty is around struggling with writing, which has put him off sociology (and other writing heavy things - he's prepared to cope for the sake of geography).

The only sixth form locally that offered geography, computer science, physics and core maths had much higher entry criteria than he is likely to get (see previous point re learning difficulty - only picked up after he did spectacularly badly in his mocks - which will not help him get good teacher assessment scores - we were working on strategies for managing the exams when they were cancelled) - I agree this would otherwise be ideal.

He was expecting a 7+ had he sat the maths GCSE.

As you'll probably gather, I've been round and round with him going through everything he could possibly take. It seems like every idea has drawbacks! I have suggested he might just have to decide which is the least bad option.

OP’s posts: |
confusedbymyheritage Fri 19-Jun-20 16:54:02

Having done A level physics in the not to recent past it is incredibly hard and would be made all the more harder without doing maths. I really would encourage anyone away from physics if they weren't also going to do maths.

Maths is hard like any A level but is a doable level of hard and unlike essay subjects doesn't require to love and dedication to read around and do extra research, just to practice until he gets it.

If he is really capable I would encourage maths as it opens so many doors and would really facilitate both physics and geography as well as leaving more options open for university. Most people I know had one A level that they liked less than the rest but needed it to facilitate those other A levels and/or for future plans.

I am not saying force or push him into maths but I'd definitely sit him down and set out all the facts around it being facilitating, opens far more doors for degree options ect, if he is just indifferent to it and it's not replacing anything else that he has a burning desire to study this may convince him to do it as an investment in his future.

EwwSprouts Fri 19-Jun-20 19:21:16

Does he not feel that there are good links between geography & biology? eg oceans, global warming, coastal communities, marine life?

JellyBellies Fri 19-Jun-20 20:36:23

If he struggles with writing then surely maths is the best one for him?

I did an entire degree in Maths because I don't like writing. Then I worked as a computer programmer.

lanthanum Fri 19-Jun-20 21:09:00

I seem to remember a statistic that people with maths A-level tend to earn 10% more than people with otherwise equivalent qualifications. Might that encourge him?

Maths would definitely support physics, and would also come in useful for some areas of geography if that's what he pursues post A-level (I even came across someone who was doing a maths degree with a view to using that to get into geography at postgrad level).

confusedbymyheritage Fri 19-Jun-20 21:28:50

I'd be careful with biology. Although there are lots of links (oceans, global warming ect) there's also a lot more that isn't related and is really quite boring if it's not what you're passionate about (endless topics on leaves, digestion, cells ect). It also becomes a lot more writing heavily at A level (and even more so at university) so if that is something your son struggles with I would steer clear. If his school does something more specialised (e.g. marine biology) that may be better but I'd be wary of general biology if he doesn't already have a passion for it.

Monkey2001 Fri 19-Jun-20 23:05:46

A lot of schools like you to start 4 subjects and drop one by Christmas. Could he start Maths, Physics, Geography and the IT thing and see how it goes in the first term? You could get him to do maths past papers between now and September to consolidate his GCSE knowledge. If he is doing well in Physics and wants to drop maths at Christmas they may be more flexible then (although I would not recommend Physics without Maths either).

DS1 did maths and physics and for him there was a significant overlap, maybe it depends on the board.

SecularPanic Fri 19-Jun-20 23:09:41

DS did Maths and Physics. The Maths really helped with the Physics.

Monkey2001 Fri 19-Jun-20 23:12:23

..... and if he is reluctant to do past papers I find -bribes- rewards very effective, whether it is a tub of Ben and Jerry's for each paper he does or financial incentive!

Georgielovespie Fri 19-Jun-20 23:29:11

He might be interested in studying Computer Science at university Unis want maths and FM but can't specify FM because not all colleges offer it so it puts candidates with just maths at a disadvantage when applying. Ds is doing Computer Science A level but universities don't care about it for a degree in it, they want the maths and further maths.

If he doesn't like maths then surely physics is a bad idea. Ds is also doing physics and agrees with Monkey they overlap.

What other sixths forms and colleges are near you and what other courses are on offer at those? Just weigh up all options.

Springb0ks Fri 19-Jun-20 23:59:33

Hi there, teacher here with experience working in three different sixth forms for over 12 years... our maths departments were very reluctant to take anyone without an A/A*/9/8 (at a push) for A Level Maths. The course is incredibly difficult.

He sounds like he is very clued up with the type of subjects he wants to study. What is attracting him to the A Level geography course? Does he enjoy the subject at school? Like the teacher? Like the course content at A Level?

I think he has to take what he ultimately enjoys and will get a good grade in. It would worry me that he has a slightly erratic working pattern. I've seen so many students try and cram at the end for A Levels and this almost never works. Especially now the the terminal A Level, there is not shock of AS exam results.

Monkey2001 Sat 20-Jun-20 00:16:00

... but if his teacher thought he should consider double maths it sounds like he was just not thriving in the classroom and may find himself in the A level class. That is why I suggested lots of past papers to build confidence. Having a Maths grad as a mum won't hurt either wink.

WombatChocolate Sat 20-Jun-20 12:41:34

Maths A Level without 8/9 is very very hard. With a 7, outcomes at A level are not great. If you’re not that good at it and don’t like it, it really isn’t a recipe for success.

The thing is, although Maths is needed for lots of things, wanting to do those doesn’t magically make Maths a genuine option.

Every year, people do courses which required maths. They find the one course that might let them on without it (computing or economics etc) and then massively struggle.

So when schools say A level maths is needed for another A level, or for a uni course, take it seriously.

He needs to rethink and look for things which don’t need maths.

A level Choices I think are hard for students who get 6/7 grades. These grades are good enough for some Alevels but some certainly need higher than a 6. Lots of places specify minimum 7 in anything you want to do at A level, plus 8 for maths. These are specific subject requirements beyond the general school/college entry requirement.

Places might be a bit more flexible this year but it won’t actually mean maths becomes more doable or likely outcomes improved.

Monkey2001 Sat 20-Jun-20 13:04:14

Hmmm, this report is a bit old (2010 data) www.cambridgeassessment.org.uk/Images/153531-progression-from-gcse-to-as-and-a-level-2010-.pdf

but shows the following correlation:
GCSE A* - 95.8% A*-C at A level
GCSE A - 72.7% A*-C at A level
GCSE B - 41.5% A*-C at A level
GCSE C - 35.1% A*-C at A level

So, at least in 2010, 35% of people with a C at GCSE got a C or better at A level.

Attaching the infographic for maths

Monkey2001 Sat 20-Jun-20 13:10:48

..... and unless there has been a significant change in correlation, would you say that 50% of students with an A getting B-A* at A level and 75% getting C-A* was a poor outcome?

Iseethesilverlining Sat 20-Jun-20 13:16:18

It sounds like it’s not possible in your school but, for what it’s worth, my DS has just finished year 12 studying geography, DT and physics - no maths. He has managed very well with physics without the maths, and has really enjoyed the year. I don’t think he would have enjoyed maths A-level at all, even though he did very well at GCSE. He had to get 7 or above at GCSE maths to take A-level physics though.

WombatChocolate Sat 20-Jun-20 13:18:17

I think there has been a change from those figures. I’ve seen more up to date figures on threads about Maths outcomes, but can’t remember where.
I think the outcomes based on the lower GCSE grades are significantly worse. 2010 is a long time ago on specification and grading terms.

I am just dredging my memory but I think a B/6 at GCSE is most likely to result in an E/U at A level. Can someone else confirm if I’m remembering correctly? If I remember correctly, vast numbers were dropping out after AS when it still existed. Without that mid-point reality check, schools are more careful about who they let on on in the first place.

It’s why schools set higher requirements for maths a level.

Of course not all students at A level can be top grade students. However starting from a point where an E I’d most likely isn’t great and sets you up for 2 years of struggle.

hellsbells99 Sat 20-Jun-20 13:20:46

Does he like any part of maths? A level is different from GCSE. Is he good at algebra? Try getting him to do extra maths over the next couple of months - like the level 3 algebra qualification (I mean Buy the book and study but not take exam) or the additional maths. Then see how he feels about it. To even consider A level at this stage, he does need to keep studying anyway - if he hasn’t done any maths for a few months by September it will be so much harder imo

Monkey2001 Sat 20-Jun-20 13:24:47

@hellsbells99 no need to buy a book, DS1 has been taking DS2 through Further Maths GCSE to keep his brain functioning using this free site corbettmaths.com/more/further-maths/

anothermansmother Sat 20-Jun-20 13:25:21

He shouldn't do maths unless he really likes it, I teach physics and although most do maths not all do. However the ones that don't do maths have commented that they wish they did. Get him to speak to the schools careers advisor to look at his options properly. It may mean going to another school or college

Monkey2001 Sat 20-Jun-20 13:36:09

@WombatChocolate this is the 2017 data, where of course they still had AS levels, but it shows that 68% of the candidates with an A got A*-C and 43% of the candidates with a B got A*-C. Strangely, in both sets of data, people with Cs did better than those with Bs - maybe because some of the Bs were from hard workers who were working at the limit of their ability and there were more lazy ones "yet to peak" in the Cs!

It sounded to me like OP's DS was on an upward trajectory in maths, but as I said upthread, I would recommend doing past papers and if he was struggling to get 6+ would probably advise against Maths.

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