Okay – so you are currently thinking about your A Levels. You might be sure of what you want to do, or at least sureish, but often you might have picked a couple of subjects and then be wondering about the third.
So should you decide to do maths as you’re third option? Well, the real answer is “maybe”. There are definitely a few things to think about before you decide…
Who does A Level Maths anyway?
Mathematics is actually the most popular A-level subject: in 2020, it was taken by 89,730 students in the UK, 40% higher than the next most popular subject, Psychology.1 And it is getting more popular. Total entries and entries as a percentage of the total have grown steadily over time,
But why is it so popular, and why should you take it?
What’s the point of studying Maths A-Level?
Ok so if you want to study engineering, computer science or finance at university it does seem as if doing maths is a no brainer. In fact, if you are concerned about studying maths you may need to think again about whether these are, ultimately, the right subject for you at university as they are very “mathsy”.
What you might not know is that quite a few other subjects, which, on the face of it are not very “mathsy” also like you to do maths. These include veterinary science, medicine, optometry, dentistry, any of the sciences, geography, psychology, architecture and economics.
But what if you are not thinking of any of these, is maths still a good choice?
Well, yes. There are a number of reasons why doing maths at A Level can be really helpful for you…
Maths Open Doors
Maths is considered by universities as a “facilitating subject”. It is on the list of accepted A levels for more degree courses than most other subjects. Whilst some subjects are considered “non-preferred” or just “another subject”, those doing maths are actively pushed higher up the list for offers.
Not only that, but once you have finished university employers are much more likely to take on a new graduate who might have studied arts, humanities or social sciences at university but also did A Level maths. It shows that you can read a graph and are unlikely to run screaming out of the room when asked to add up some numbers…
Maths teaches you to think logically and to solve problems (not just maths problems!)
When you solve a maths problem, you have to define your terms and the assumptions you’re making. This methodical approach is transferrable, for instance, to the kind of research you might do if you study a humanities course at university. People who do maths A Level often make excellent historians. You might even find it useful in real life!
Again, this is one reason why employers like maths A Level even in non-science/maths graduates. In the workplace, the ability to work systematically and logically to devise plans and execute projects is highly valued. If you have done an arts, humanities or social science degree, but also have maths A Level, you are demonstrating to future employers that you have those logical, analytical skills as well as the other skills your degree requires. Some of them even use numerical skills or numerical reasoning tests as part of their recruitment process, so doing maths A Level will help you prepare for these.
Maths A Level earns you money!
Yes, really… OK, not directly, but there is significant evidence that if you take A-Level Maths, you are more likely to earn more in your career. A study from 2016 suggested that those who took A-Level Mathematics earned 11% more in their early 30s than those who did not.3
But isn’t Maths A Level really hard?
Well I won’t lie. It isn’t the easiest of options and it isn’t for everyone. It is a step up from GCSE so, realistically, you need to be heading for a secure grade 6 or higher to be seriously considering maths at A Level.
I would also say it is the most unfair of A Levels. Some people will apparently take no, or little, interest in lessons, do the bare minimum outside of those and still romp through an A*, whereas others will need to put in lots of extra effort to get a decent grade.
So you need to think about which camp you are likely to fall into and whether you think you can put in that effort. Be realistic – better to under estimate yourself and find you don’t have to do that much, than to think you’ll be fine then find you don’t have the time for the work you need to put in.
If Maths isn’t your favourite subject, and you don’t plan on studying a higher education qualification in which it will be directly useful, A-Level Maths might not seem particularly appealing in the short-term. The long-term advantages, however, of the skills that you gain from studying Maths, may serve you well in the future. If you’re hesitant because you find Maths difficult, overcoming a challenge might be good motivation, and there are plenty help available you. Maybe even give me a call.. And, who knows – as you get better at Maths, you’ll probably find that you enjoy it more!
1 Provisional Entries for GCSE, AS and A level: Summer 2020 exam series - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
2 Graph plotted from data retrieved from: Provisional Entries for GCSE, AS and A level: Summer 2020 exam series - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
3 Adkins, M. and Noyes, A. (2016). ‘Reassessing the economic value of advanced level mathematics’, British Educational Research Journal, 42(1), pp.93-116.