About Maths At A Level
By studying A Level Maths, you can first of all expect to develop a range of key skills that are sought after by employers and that will also help you throughout your day to day life. For example, Maths encourages logical thinking, decision-making and problem-solving, all of which are vital to survive in modern society.
To add to that, Maths is a key area of study for those seeking a career in the Finance, Engineering and Information Technology industries. Just some jobs that are directly related to a Maths qualification are Chartered Accountant, Investment Analyst, Systems Developer and Secondary School Teacher of Maths.
It is quite remarkable to think that Maths is the only language that is exactly the same for all humans, regardless of nationality, culture, religion or gender.
As an example, while students in France might use a different method of working out a division question than those in the UK, they will still arrive at the same answer because there is no other possible answer.
Maths functions don't evolve like other subjects, that's how we know that Pi is always going to be roughly 3.14.
What To Expect From The New A Level Course Specifications
Due to government-led changes to the education system in Britain, A Levels (like GCSEs) have undergone some changes in recent months, which are now beginning to emerge across the country.
For example, many of the principal exam boards have had to significantly change their course structure to create new qualifications designed to be the best and most rewarding experience for students. While the new changes represent the biggest in a generation, one of the main improvements is thought to be the increased freedom offered to young mathematicians and their teachers.
Which Exam Boards Offer A Level Maths?
Maths at A Level is a popular choice among UK students, and is offered by most of the principal exam boards.
That said, not all boards will examine the themes of the to the same degree, i.e. you cannot expect each and every lesson to mirror those taught at another school, as teaching and lesson planning methods vary from teacher to teacher and school to school.
Here is a closer look at two of the most common specifications and what you can expect from each of the courses.
The AQA A Level Mathematics (7357), which was taught from September 2017, with the first exams being sat in 2018 onwards, covers a broad range of Maths themes. Some of this content includes Trigonometry, Sequences and series, Exponentials and logarithms, Differentiation, Integration, Vectors, Statistical hypothesis testing, Kinematics as well as Algebra and functions.
Teachers of this specification will be encouraged to help students to make links between these various areas of Maths so that they can seek to apply their mathematical skills across all modules.
In addition, new resources and exams contribute in making the study of the themes clearer and more consistent so that teachers and students alike can feel confident that they have done all that they can before the exam.
This particular specification is assessed across three exams, each making up a third of your final grade. The exams are written assessments which last for 2 hours and include a mixture of question styles, from short, single-mark questions to multi-step problems racking up more in the way of points.
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As with the above AQA specification, OCR’s course has recently been amended to produce a new linear qualification for mathematicians.
The board offers four main areas at AS/A Level: Mathematics A (H240, from September 2017), Mathematics B (H640, from September 2017), Further Mathematics A (H245, from September 2017) and Further Mathematics B (H645, from September 2017).
All of these course were introduced to schools and colleges for the first time this year, so the first ever exams to be sat will be in 2018.
Both AS and A Level Maths have entirely prescribed themes therefore educational establishments have no options to choose from, hence why Statistics and Mechanics are now compulsory everywhere. This means you will be studying the same content as your peers on another specification, like the one above for example.
Furthermore, the new course aims to increase its focus on problem-solving, as well as mathematical argument, reasoning and modelling.
Those studying towards one of the Further Maths courses, however, will have more flexibility when it comes to choosing topics, since teachers can opt for the modules that are most suited to your class’ needs.
The Overarching Themes Of A Level Maths
As defined by S-cool.co.uk, Differentiation is 'a tool of mathematics that is primarily used for calculating rates of change'. The tool thus allows us to find the rate of change of velocity with respect to time (i.e. acceleration) as well as the rate of change of x with respect to y on a graph (i.e. the gradient of the curve).
As part of your A Level course, your teacher will no doubt teach you the basic rules of Differentiation. For instance, you will learn that:
If y = a function of x (an expression containing x's and numbers), then the derivative of y with respect to x is written dy/dx.
In addition to the above simple rule, you will almost certainly learn about Differentiating x to the power of something, bringing the power down to in front of the x and then reducing the power by one, along with studying Notation, the ways of writing the derivative.
Finally, you will use all of this knowledge to Differentiate the equation of a curve, finding a formula for its gradient.
If all of this sounds a bit perplexing, rest assured that your Maths teacher will be able to explain the processes and functions so that they come to you easily.
During your A Level Maths studies, you will come across Statistics as a topic. This subject area covers Histograms and Cumulative Frequency, Measures of Dispersion, Averages, Probability, Expectationand Varience, Normal Approximations, Sampling, Hypothesis Testing and Estimators, among numerous other related sub-topics.
Taking Probability as an example, you will discover how to work out the probability of an event happening by using the general terms of Probability in conjunction with set theory, like Venn Diagrams.
Exponentials And Logarithms
The Exponential Function and Logarithms are vital components of your Maths A Level. As such, you will explore the Exponential Function (which crops up very frequently in the subject) and the way of writing indices as well as understanding the Laws of Logs.
You will be taught about the Natural Logarithm and how to solve equations involving Exponentials or the Natural Logarithm.
Finally, this now-compulsory module will make its appearance during your A Level Maths course, shedding light on Acceleration, Newton's Laws, Vectors, Impulse and Momentum, Projectiles, Centre of Mass and much, much more.
Fascinating content for fast car enthusiasts, the equations and functions can be extremely useful to many, with a range of transferrable skills on offer. For example, the study of acceleration caused by gravity is also key to Physics courses, as well as scientists looking at gravitational acceleration at different points on Earth.
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Sound Challenging? You Are Not Alone...
While it is impossible to educate you on Maths functions in a few short paragraphs, we hope that you now have a better overview of the level of detail which you learn on the above subjects, enabling you to apply this to the other modules offered as part of the Maths A Level.
Once again, take comfort from the fact that many people find Maths challenging as a subject, and that it is is perfectly normal for you to need a little time or extra tuition to help you along the way.
As a matter of fact, even adults who once passed their Maths qualifications back in the day would struggle to complete the content you are studying now, which shows that you can very feel proud of your achievements to date - why not put your parents to the test and see if they could manage to pass a modern-day Maths GCSE? See The Telegraph to find questions aimed at your age group!
Find out where to find A level Maths past papers with our blog, here.