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Who said that people don't like maths? Numbers of entries to maths A and AS levels across the UK have again increased this year. The number of students taking maths A level has risen by 7.8% compared to last year (from 77,001 to 82,995) and A level further maths entries have risen by 5.2% (from 11,682 to 12,287). At AS level maths has seen an increase of 25.3% compared to last year (from 112,847 to 141,392) and further maths an increase of 24.7% (from 14,884 to 18,555). The number of students taking A level maths is now higher than it has been for almost two decades.
The popularity of maths continues to rise.
"Once again mathematics has proved one of the most popular subjects at this level," says David Youdan, Executive Director at the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA). "The impact of mathematics on our daily lives is immeasurable and the continued student commitment to, and success in, mathematics is encouraging for the future health of the subject." Chris Budd, Education Secretary at the London Mathematical Society (LMS), agrees: "Mathematics continues to be a challenging and valuable subject in preparing students for the demands of the modern world, and we welcome the continued growth in numbers at A level and AS. We hope that the increasing numbers of mathematics students will be met with an increased provision for mathematics courses at universities."
The Further Mathematics Support Programme (FMSP) can take some credit for the continued rise in the popularity of further maths (entries are up by 131% since 2003). The FMSP works to give all students the opportunity to study further maths if they want to. "The continued increases in further mathematics numbers are a real cause for celebration," says Charlie Stripp, Chief Executive of Mathematics in Education and Industry, who manage the FMSP. "Over 60% of state-funded schools and colleges offering A level mathematics now also have students taking A level further mathematics, up from less than 40% six years ago. This means that more young people from less privileged backgrounds are able to study further mathematics, which boosts their chances of earning places at prestigious universities to study for degrees in subjects such as engineering, sciences and mathematics, all of which are vital to our economy."
Mathematical skills are an important asset in a wide range of jobs (see the Plus careers library), not only because they enable people to do the actual maths, but because they are highly transferable. "Mathematics is a pre-requisite for jobs in all sectors of the economy, whether or not [students] go on to use their mathematics qualification in higher education," the IMA and LMS said in a joint statement. "The numeracy, modelling, logical and problem-solving skills they have gained from studying mathematics are sought by employers, and the contribution these young people will make to our economic success in the future is crucial."
But apart from improving your career chances and the prospect of the UK economy as a whole, maths is also fun. Call us deluded, but here at Plus we hope and trust that this is the main reason why students like it!