The numbers of students taking AS and A level Mathematics and Further Mathematics qualifications have increased very significantly this year. A level Mathematics numbers are up from 64593 to 72475, a 12% increase, while A level Further Mathematics numbers are up from 9091 to 10473, a 15% increase. The Further Mathematics increases are the highest of any mainstream A level subject.
There appear to be much larger increases at AS level, with AS Mathematics numbers up from 84613 to 103312, a 22% increase, and AS Further Mathematics numbers up from 8945 to 13164, a 47% increase. However, it is not entirely certain that these figures can be taken at face value, due to changes in the advice regarding when candidates should apply for certification.
The results come at a time when A-level mathematics has been widely discussed in the news, with controversy over plans to introduce a new A-level in Use of Mathematics as well as calls to award more school league table points for "harder" subjects such as mathematics and physics.
Chris Budd, Education Secretary at the London Mathematical Society said, "We have been concerned at the recent decline in the number of candidates taking A-level mathematics and are now delighted that the subject is again attracting healthy levels of interest. Many of these candidates will go on to study mathematically-rich subjects at university, but many
others will find their mathematics useful whatever they go on to study or in their working lives. " Duncan Lawson of the Higher Education Service Area at the Institute of Mathematics and Its Applications said, "The continued growth in success at A-level mathematics is fantastic news for the future of the subject in the UK. It is also good news for the country
as a mathematically well-qualified workforce is essential for our international economic competitiveness. "
The news has also been welcomed by other organisations concerned with maths education in schools, including the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education (ACME), the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM), and the Engineering Council UK. Particular
praise has been heaped on the Further Mathematics Network (now replaced and extended by the Further Mathematics Support Programme), which for the last four years has provided tuition to students who could not access Further Mathematics tuition in their own schools and colleges. "The strong growth in numbers taking both these subjects is a tribute to
the work of the Further Mathematics Network and others who are working to increase the popularity of Mathematics," said John Holman, Director of the National Science Learning Centre and National STEM Director.
The Further Mathematics Network was launched four years ago, because many students had been missing out on the opportunity to take Further Maths at A level. This was worrying, since a high level of mathematics is a pre-requisite for many degree subjects. "Further Mathematics is widely recognised by university departments in the sciences, engineering, computing and mathematics, the so called
'STEM' subjects, as one of the most demanding and useful AS/A level subjects," said Charlie Stripp, Programme Leader of the Further Mathematics Support Programme. "These increased numbers will result in more students being well-prepared to make the transition to university in these vital subject areas. Taking Further Maths is a great way for students to show they have that something extra."