Benefits of offering the full range of advanced maths options
Enabling your students to access the full range of advanced maths options can provide benefits that extend far beyond the advantages for the students who study for these qualifications.
Improve your 16-19 recruitment and retention
The popularity of A level Further Mathematics has grown rapidly in recent years, and demand for Core Maths is taking off as more young people and their parents become aware of its usefulness. Offering these subjects in addition to AS/A level Mathematics, possibly as optional fourth subject choices, can help you to attract more students to study at your school/college.
Help your 16-19 students to achieve the best outcomes
Taking an advanced maths qualification that fits a student’s prior attainment and aspirations can help them to achieve their aims.
- Improve their results
Many non-maths courses taken in Years 12 and 13 include mathematical content. Assessment of mathematical skills is included in a third of all non-maths A levels (see this DfE document for details). For example, 10% of the marks across the A level Psychology question papers assess mathematical skills at Higher Tier GCSE level. Similarly, many level 3 vocational courses, such Engineering and Applied Science, have considerable mathematical content. It is therefore likely that students who study maths alongside these subjects will achieve better results in them.
It has also been observed that studying AS/A level Further Mathematics can help students to improve their results in AS/A level Mathematics.
- Improve their opportunities
Studying maths beyond GCSE helps keep mathematical skills fresh, which can help students to perform better in selection tests. Many university courses, including subjects other than maths, such as medicine and teaching, require applicants to take an additional admission test with some mathematical content. What’s more, many employers use numeracy tests to filter applicants. Students who have studied maths beyond GCSE are better prepared for such tests.
Furthermore, some universities and degree apprenticeship programmes prefer applicants to have taken a level 3 maths qualification. For example, the University of Bath makes reduced offers for subjects that do not require A level Mathematics to students who have taken Core Maths, AS or A level Mathematics or AS or A level Statistics (when studied in addition to three other subjects). AS/A level Further Mathematics is often required or preferred for degrees in Mathematics, and studying AS/A Further Mathematics can help students in preparing for the mathematical admission test, required by some more selective universities.
- Improve their future experiences
Studying maths beyond GCSE, doesn’t just open doors for students, it can also be a huge benefit to them in many aspects of their future lives. It helps them to gain skills and confidence in applying the maths they may meet in higher education, and/or the workplace. It also develops transferrable skills, such as problem solving and reasoning.
Core Maths develops thinking skills and approaches that are highly applicable in the workplace and for life in general. Ideally, it should be available to all students who have achieved a grade 4 or better in GCSE Mathematics.
AS/A level Further Mathematics introduces new maths topics and supports a smooth transition to studying for a degree in subjects such as physics and engineering, as well as mathematics. Ideally, it should be available to all students who have achieved a grade 6 or better in GCSE Mathematics.
Also consider providing your students with the opportunity to study AS level Mathematics or Further Mathematics in Year 12 or 13, even if they are unlikely to study the full A levels. The additional mathematics covered is accessible to a wide range of students and will help those going on to further study involving higher-level maths.
It’s therefore important that all students who would benefit from taking an advanced maths qualification are able to access them. This means not only offering them as options, but also considering your entry criteria. Ideally, students who achieve grade 4 or higher in GCSE Mathematics should be able to take Core Maths. Those who achieve grade 5 or higher should be able to access AS/A level Mathematics, and those who achieve grade 6 or higher should be able to access AS/A level Further Mathematics.
Retain your maths staff
Most maths teachers prefer to work in schools and colleges that provide rich opportunities for them to develop their skills. Your teachers may not have experience of teaching Core Maths or A level Further Mathematics, but it is likely that many would welcome the opportunity to do so. The AMSP offers a wide range of professional development to help you to develop your maths teachers in these directions. Notably, evidence suggests that teachers who participate in subject-specific continuing professional development courses, similar to the sustained courses offered by the AMSP, are re-energised and have an increased commitment to remaining in the profession.
Enhance the maths culture throughout your school
Providing a rich maths offer in Years 12 and 13, and increasing students’ participation in maths, can boost attitudes to maths throughout your school. Seeing 16-19 students choosing to study maths demonstrates the relevance of achieving well at GCSE, and provides role models for younger students. The retention of maths students and staff can also enhance mathematical experiences at Key Stages 3 and 4, and may help to improve GCSE results.