Supporting your students’ transition to advanced maths

If more students are to choose to study maths beyond GCSE, it’s crucial that they are well-prepared. As their teacher, you’re the best person to do this. Here are some suggestions to help you.

Engage

If your students are going to want to choose to continue to study maths, they need to be enthusiastic about the subject. We have got lots of ideas to inspire them.

Inform

Your students need to be aware of the full range of advanced maths qualifications and the benefits of taking them. We’ve provided these details here for them to access themselves. We’re also developing leaflets and other materials for students and their parents/carers. These will be available free of charge to all state-funded schools in England.

One of the best ways for students to find out about advanced maths options is to attend one of our free enrichment events at which they can discover how the maths they learn now can be extended and used beyond GCSE.

We've also developed a 30 minute presentation for students and parents/carers about the importance of studying maths post-GCSE. It outlines the options available, and provides compelling reasons for choosing to take an advanced maths qualification.

Advise

You'll have the best idea of what your students are capable of, and what they need to fulfil their aspirations, but if you're looking for a starting point for a conversation, here are some questions you could ask them to think about:

Do you know which qualifications you will need for the direction you want to take?

Encourage them to look into the typical requirements for university courses and higher and degree apprenticeships that interest them. There's a wealth of information available online, but a great place to start is the Russell Group Informed Choices guide.

Work experience can also be a good way of finding out what they will need to follow the career paths they are considering. Perhaps you could create a display highlighting careers that need advanced maths.

It’s especially important that students considering taking a degree course in a mathematically-rich subject are aware of how useful is it is to study AS/A level Further Mathematics. Some prestigious university maths degrees and higher apprenticeship programmes prefer applicants to have taken AS/A level Further Mathematics. What’s more, studying AS/A Further Mathematics can help students with the mathematical admission tests, required by some prestigious universities.

Do you know what 'facilitating' subjects are, and how they can keep your options open?

Encourage them to read the Russell Group Informed Choices guide. It explains how important A level subject choices are for gaining entry to top universities. What's more, research has found that having A level Mathematics has the biggest impact of all subjects, even if it's not required for the degree course.

Will taking an advanced maths option help you with your other subjects?

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 (this DfE document provides 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, 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 often helps students to improve their results in AS/A level Mathematics.

Could studying maths beyond GCSE help you in other ways?

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. Furthermore, employers often use numeracy tests to filter applicants. Students who have studied maths beyond GCSE are better prepared for these kinds of tests.

Find ways to encourage girls

Advanced maths qualifications benefit all students who’ve passed GCSE Mathematics; however, currently fewer girls opt for them than boys. In 2018 the proportion of A level Mathematics students that were girls was 39%. For A level Further Mathematics the figure was 28%, and for Core Maths 43%.

We’d like more girls to choose advanced maths options, to help them realise their full potential.

The legacy Further Mathematics Support Programme (FMSP) produced a leaflet discussing the participation of girls in maths. It makes several recommendations for strategies schools and colleges can adopt to promote greater gender balance in the maths A levels, and for increasing participation generally.

These resources, produced by the legacy FMSP, offer some practical ways to encourage girls' participation:

Enrichment sessions

Research suggests girls are more likely than boys to take A level Mathematics alongside non-STEM A level subjects, and so demonstrating the use of maths in other subjects is encouraging. This Decision Trees Teacher Guide provides a step-by-step plan and resources for use with Key Stage 4 students. The activities are designed to show how mathematical techniques can be used to make business and other decisions. There's an accompanying Decision Trees PowerPoint and Decision Trees handout (with solutions).

Extension lessons

Research also suggests that girls in particular appreciate the opportunity to try out A level material before committing themselves to opt for it. This series of five lessons for Key Stage 4 students is designed to give them an insight into the sorts of topics they might meet at A level. These lessons are designed to be challenging, and relate the maths covered to a variety of careers. There is an associated series of presentations and all exercises are accompanied by fully worked solutions.

You might like to use this girls' participation self-audit resource to review your strategy and identify aspects to develop.

The strategies or approaches mentioned on this page, whilst intended to encourage girls' participation, are equally effective in encouraging boys' participation in maths.