Girls’ participation in level 3 maths

Thursday 24th March 2022

Despite achieving as well as boys in GCSE Mathematics, girls are underrepresented in both A level Mathematics and A level Further Mathematics. In 2021, according to JCQ data, girls accounted for approximately 40% of entries for A level Mathematics and 30% of entries for A level Further Mathematics – these proportions have hardly changed over recent years. Core Maths was more gender-balanced, with girls accounting for 47% of entries.

The table below, using data sourced from the government websiteOpens a new window, shows the situation in London, Kent and Medway in 2018:

Local Authority % of female A level students entered for maths % of male A level students entered for maths % of all A level students entered for maths Difference in percentage between male and female A level Mathematics entries % of female A level students entered for Further Maths % of male A level students entered for Further Maths % of all A level students entered for Further Maths Difference in percentage between male and female A level Further Mathematics entries
National average 16.68% 29.99% 22.97% 13.31% 1.77% 5.62% 3.55% 3.85%
Kent 13.98% 23.86% 18% 9.88% 1% 4% 3% 2.73%
Medway 12.00% 21.66% 16% 9.66% 2% 2% 2% 0.89%
Merton 19.50% 32.04% 28% 12.54% 1% 6% 4% 5.78%
Newham 25.59% 42.78% 33% 17.19% 2% 8% 4% 5.78%
Redbridge 26.59% 44.10% 37% 17.51% 2% 7% 4% 4.55%
Richmond upon Thames 18.93% 33.57% 25% 14.64% 2% 8% 4% 6.04%
Southwark 23.38% 39.67% 32% 16.29% 1% 8% 4% 7.41%
Sutton 30.59% 42.60% 41% 12.01% 4% 9% 8% 4.79%
Tower Hamlets 19.09% 37.36% 29% 18.27% 2% 8% 5% 6.44%
Waltham Forest 15.48% 30.42% 24% 14.94% 2% 5% 4% 3.67%
Wandsworth 21.65% 36.07% 30% 14.42% 4% 7% 5% 3.17%
Westminster 23.05% 41.51% 33% 18.46% 3% 12% 7% 8.72%

Why does this imbalance in entries matter? In her gender review of maths and further maths A levelsOpens a new window, Cathy Smith writes:

All the papers reviewed show a concern for social, economic and institutional injustices that result from women’s unequal participation in advanced mathematics. Many papers also argue that their nation’s economic advantage relies on increasing the proportion of the population with mathematical skills. From this perspective, girls who do not follow STEM courses are a potential source for recruiting more mathematicians, and hence their participation deserves scrutiny.

Raising the level of girls’ participation in level 3 maths is a key aim of the AMSP. To add to the regular national events on this topic, the London and South East regional team are preparing an enrichment event which we'll be bringing into individual schools after the Easter break. Boys won't be excluded from attending the event, but it will be subtly designed so that it's particularly relevant and engaging for girls. Importantly, it will demonstrate the value to both genders of studying maths beyond the age of 16.

Please contact your local Area Coordinator to express an interest in one of us visiting your school to deliver this exciting new event!

By John Heffernan

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