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Alevel maths - can DS really not be up to it?

(57 Posts)
grownupbabes Thu 15-Oct-09 18:29:34

DS has just started AS. He got all A and A* for GCSEs, including A for maths. He is now doing maths, physics, music and a language for A level - but his school has told him (after just 5 weeks)that his maths isn't up to it. They are insisting he drop maths. Surely an A at GCSE is a good enough to be going on with?
The problem is that he needs maths as a prerequisite for what he wants to do at university. If he drops maths, he won't be able to follow his dream. Surely they ought to let him give it a go. How hard can it be? Can they really tell he is going to fail after 5 weeks? He has always been a very good student in all subjects.
Feeling really quite angry about this. Any maths teachers out there who can advise? Or anyone else had any similar experience? Is this about league table scores, and not my son's future?

ThisBoyDerekDrew Thu 15-Oct-09 18:35:47

An A at GCSE should be enough.

BUt from first hand experience Maths A level is like a completely new subject. GCSE maths doesn't prepare you for it IMO (well not anywhere near enough).

I got A in Maths GCSE and Distinction in the extension paper. I took A level maths for A level. There were 2 courses to choose from. One was a similar learning style to teh GCSE...continuation of hte GCSE as far as syllabus and text books were concerned (i.e. same "brand") and that was still a tough move from GCSE to A level.

Initially I was on a more "classical" maths course. I hated that. I was top of the class for maths at GCSE and I couldn't hack it. I think that if I had to I could...but I took the easier option of continuing the other sylabus (which as I have already said was still tough enough).

I think that 5 weeks is a little early to tell - personally - but equally I wouldn't rule out the possibility that he could be struggling making the move from GCSE to A level.

southeastastra Thu 15-Oct-09 18:38:39

oh blimey ds really wants to do this next year. have you spoken to his tutor grownup?

grownupbabes Thu 15-Oct-09 18:57:42

That's interesting, but I guess not encouraging, ThisBoy.
I have spoken to his tutor, and am now angling to talk to head of maths. The tutor said basically "the maths department ought to know, so if they say he should give up, that's probably what he should do". I just think it is totally unsupportive, given his university plans. They are effectively telling him to dump something he's been working towards for 5 years. Just like that.
And anyway, I'm not saying he needs to get an A for A level maths - a C would do, just as long as he's got the maths.
Would tutoring help do you think? (Reluctant, as I don't have money to spare really).

fluffles Thu 15-Oct-09 19:03:34

not a maths teacher at all but did do it as a degree... i can see a situation where they can see that he's just not quite keeping up after five weeks. that level of maths is almost a different way of thinking and usually people get it or they don't.

BUT i do think that if he's genuinely trying his hardest in school and willing to do extra work then the school should support him at least for this year through to AS. If you're wlling to also support with out of school tutoring they definately should support you/him but that shouldn't necessarily be required IF he's willing to put a huge amount of effort in to stay up to date on homework and coursework done out of school.

do the school know how much he wants this? or does he give off typical 17 year old 'whatever' vibes? they may be advising he drop it because there are other subjects he can do 'better' in without realising how this affects his university plans.

on the other hand, it could be that the school just want to keep their AS results high hmm

bloss Thu 15-Oct-09 19:04:53

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brimfull Thu 15-Oct-09 19:05:18

Just had to replay that dd did exactly the same As level subjects ,french being her language,

She has since dropped physics.

We got dd a tutor as she started As level maths in yr 11 and had zilch confidence.She improved and managed a B in the end.She does struggle and has found mechanics the hardest..

I think you should go and see the school before making the decision.

StarlightMcKenzie Thu 15-Oct-09 19:12:08

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VulpusinaWilfsuit Thu 15-Oct-09 19:13:38

shock that they only do calculus at A level these days: really?!

StarlightMcKenzie Thu 15-Oct-09 19:14:53

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bloss Thu 15-Oct-09 19:29:08

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VulpusinaWilfsuit Thu 15-Oct-09 19:35:00

Blimey. I'm amazed. How do they cope in science A levels if they can't do these things when they start?

5Foot5 Thu 15-Oct-09 19:36:06

Well I can understand why they don't do logs for GCSE anymore. We had to learn how to use them from about 11 or 12 but that was because calculators weren't allowed at O level.

Vulpus: We did do caclulus for O level but when I got to 6th Form College I found that ours was the only school that had. Most of the other examining boards didn't go near it until A level - and that was 30 years ago (eek)

thepumpkineater Thu 15-Oct-09 19:45:01

Well I am afraid this is how it is these days. Getting an A or A* in Maths(or prob any GCSE) does not mean being exceptionally bright in that subject. My DD got an A in Maths and DS1 an A in Physics. There is no way they could have really taken A levels in those subjects.

I do feel sorry for the OP's son though. You need to talk it through with the school. What does he want to do at university?

imkeepingmum Thu 15-Oct-09 19:47:41

Not a teacher but I did A level maths (after getting an A in GCSEs) 8 years ago - I was the last year of the old A levels without AS. I also did Physics and would say that he will be much better off continuing with the maths if he is also doing physics. Without exception, every person on my physics course who was not doing maths as well dropped out in the first year. I ended up with an A in maths and am now doing a degree in it part-time. I would say the bigger struggle is trying to do 4 subjects at once - I started French A level and gave it up during the first term as it was a lot of work doing 4 subjects.

IMO if he needs maths for the degree he wants to do the school should let him do what HE wants not what they want (which is probably to do with their league tables...)!

fluffles Thu 15-Oct-09 20:25:10

good point imkeepingmum if he can't manage the maths he'll be in for a terrible time in physics. there's some harder maths in physics than in maths!!!

blithedance Thu 15-Oct-09 20:36:20

Could he drop one of the other subjects? I did 4 A levels (in the olden days) but two of them were maths and further maths.

I would pursue it if possible. There is a good reason that technical degree courses demand maths, it really is the foundation of those subjects. There were people on my engineering MSc course who didn't have a Maths A level and they were floundering on the theoretical stuff. Whereas language and music are "nice to have" but you could learn those without doing an A level (unless they are degree related too - music technology?

blithedance Thu 15-Oct-09 20:39:41

Having said that, also he may need a serious think about what he wants to do and does it really suit his brain/character/aptitudes? There are an awful lot of careers and degree courses that aren't obvious to a 17 year old - I'm sure people could suggest related alternatives.

lazymumofteenagesons Thu 15-Oct-09 22:35:34

Its strange that they are advising giving up maths when he is doing physics. At DS(1) school you are not allowed to do physics A level without maths.

Also seems very early on.Do you know what sort of marks he has been getting for homeworks/tests? When DS(1) doesn't understand something in maths he asks the teacher after class and often a one to one session is arranged in a free or lunch time.

There is a very wide range of marks for an A in maths GCSE. I have heard rumours that you can get an A with about 55%. Not saying this is what your son got, but would really struggle at A level with that.

bloss Fri 16-Oct-09 07:20:50

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SofiaAmes Fri 16-Oct-09 07:55:17

That's why I moved my kids back to the usa when they were ready to start school. When we were in the uk they were trying to tell me that there was something wrong with my ds because he wasn't learning how to read quickly enough at nursery (!!!). He is now in 4th Grade, is permanently attached to a book and has been identified as a genius. Never mind my dh who has gone back to uni at the ripe old age of 38 to study Geology (he never did much schooling past the age of 12, the first time around).
The idea that at 16 a child is condemned to a path in life because he doesn't thrive in the first 5 weeks of a level math is disgusting.

abra1d Fri 16-Oct-09 08:21:16

I know that many teachers have anxieties about GCSE not being stretching enough for those who want to go on to A level.

At my son's school they do the IGCSE. I don't know much about it but it's supposed to be more challenging, so perhaps it's easier to work out who's really got that extra mathematical something.

OP--your son wouldn't be the first by a long way to have had this experience. Good luck sorting it out.

grownupbabes Fri 16-Oct-09 08:24:05

Starlight - I didn't mean he'd been working hard on his GCSE maths for 5 yrs... he sailed through that, obviously. I meant he has been working towards his general career goal, which is to be a sound engineer. He is amazing on his music and in the recording studio. He's been told not to waste his time on Music Tech as a subject, but that to do sound engineering at the best universities needs maths and physics. I spent yesterday checking up on this. It does.
He is really good at physics,loves it, and has no problem with this, or the maths behind it. I think it is because he is practically "in tune" with it. But this is why I also think he is capable of the maths.
Sofia, I agree with you. Granted maths at A level might be a big leap, but he is a bright and academic boy, with a life plan. I think to be forced into giving it up seems v wrong.

RubberDuck Fri 16-Oct-09 08:32:44

I don't know how much the maths syllabus has changed since I took it, but I remember a large part of it (once you had got the hang of each process) being a case of just change the numbers once you got into the exam. The trick is for the process to fall into place in your head, and if your teacher isn't good at explaining the process then you're really out of luck.

One thing I did was buy a Lett's Revision Guide before my course even started and taught myself a large chunk. The repetition of going over and over the same thing in every example helped it click for me, then all the teacher could do was change the numbers.

Five weeks isn't that long. Could he at least give it until the end of the term and put some work in himself? Could the maths department be persuaded to give him some pointers on which areas of the basics he should work on the most?

RubberDuck Fri 16-Oct-09 08:37:59

Oh, and I did a physics degree and I started really struggling with the maths at that level (despite having maths and further maths A-levels) - our tutor was useless and unlearned everything I had learned at A-level, he was so flipping confusing.

Again, I started to ignore the teacher and in the end borrowed engineering maths text books from my then boyfriend (dh now ) and just went over and over and over each example. Engineering maths text books seem to be written far more clearly for some reason!

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