A level Mathematics is a course worth studying, not only as a supporting subject for the physical and social sciences, but in its own right. It is challenging but interesting. It builds on work you will have met at GCSE, but also involves new ideas produced by some of the greatest minds of the last millennium.
While studying mathematics you will be expected to:
Mathematics is rather different from many other subjects. An essential part of mathematical study is the challenge of analysing and solving a problem and the satisfaction and confidence gained from achieving a 'correct' answer. If you choose mathematics you will not have to write essays, but you will need to be able to communicate well in written work to explain your solutions. Mathematics is not about learning facts. You will not achieve success by just reading a textbook or by producing and revising from detailed notes... you actually need to 'do' mathematics.
For A Level Mathematics you will sit three examination papers at the end of year 13. Paper One and Paper Two are both Pure Mathematics papers, whilst Paper Three is the Statistics and Mechanics paper. All examinations are 2 hours long, and each paper is worth one third of the total qualification. There are no optional units for A Level Mathematics. All parts of the course are compulsory.
When studying Pure Mathematics at A Level you will be extending your knowledge of such topics as algebra and trigonometry as well as learning some brand new ideas such as calculus. While many of the ideas you will meet in Pure Mathematics are interesting in their own right, they also serve as an important foundation for other branches of mathematics, especially Mechanics and Statistics.
Mechanics deals with the action of forces on objects. It is therefore concerned with many everyday situations, e.g. the motion of cars, the flight of a cricket ball through the air, the stresses in bridges and the motion of the earth around the sun. Such problems have to be simplified or modelled to make them capable of solution using relatively simple mathematics. The study of Mechanics will enable you to use the mathematical techniques which you learn in Pure Mathematics to help you to produce solutions to these problems. Many of the ideas you will meet in the course form an almost essential introduction to such important modern fields of study such as cybernetics, robotics, bio-mechanics and sports science, as well as the more traditional areas of engineering and physics.
When you study Statistics you will learn how to analyse and summarise numerical data in order to arrive at conclusions about them. You will extend the range of probability problems that you looked at in GCSE using the new mathematical techniques learnt in Pure Mathematics. Many of the ideas in this part of the course have applications in a wide range of other fields, from assessing what your car insurance is going to cost to how likely it is that the Earth will be hit by a comet in the next few years. Many of the techniques are used in sciences and social sciences. Even if you are not going on to study or work in these fields, in today's society we are bombarded with information (or data) and the Statistics units will give you useful tools for looking at this information critically and efficiently.
A Level Mathematics is very valuable as a supporting subject to many courses at Advanced GCE and degree level, especially in the sciences and Geography, Psychology, Sociology and medical courses. Advanced GCE Mathematics is a much sought-after qualification for entry to a wide variety of full-time courses in Higher Education. There are also many areas of employment that see a Mathematics Advanced GCE as an important qualification and it is often a requirement for the vocational qualifications related to these areas. Higher Education courses or careers that either require Advanced GCE mathematics or are strongly related include:
If you wanted to continue your study of Mathematics after Advanced GCE you could follow a course in Mathematics at degree level or even continue further as a postgraduate and get involved in mathematical research. People entering today's most lucrative industries such as IT, banking and the stock market need to be confident using mathematics on a daily basis. To be sure of this, many employers still look for a traditional Mathematics A Level qualification. Researchers at the London School of Economics have recently found that people who have studied Mathematics can expect to earn up to 11% more than their colleagues - even in the same job! Even in areas where Pure Mathematics isn't required, other mathematics skills learned at A Level, such as logical thinking, problem solving and statistical analysis, are often very desirable in the workplace. Mathematics is the new lingua franca of commerce, business and even journalism.
This course is suitable for students who have achieved level 7 or above in GCSE Mathematics. To remain on the course, a pass is required in the Algebra test which all Mathematics students will take during the first 3 weeks of the course. This is irrespective of GCSE result.