We are one of the largest departments in College offering a wide range of courses designed to meet the needs of all students coming to College and hoping to further their mathematical education. We are a lively and enthusiastic department who work hard to offer students a rich and varied experience in the classroom. Whether you are simply hoping to achieve that elusive grade C at GCSE, whether you need a sound mathematical grounding to support your other subjects or whether you wish to be challenged and extended in preparation for Mathematics at university, we have courses for you – and a team of highly qualified staff to deliver them.
The department offers courses in GCSE Mathematics, AS and A Level Use of Mathematics, AS and A Level Mathematics , AS and A Level Further Mathematics, AS and A Level Statistics and Standard Level Mathematical Studies as part of the International Baccalaureate diploma programme. Details of these courses can be found in the Download box on this page.
Trips and Visits
The department organises trips to hear internationally renowned speakers talk about areas of current mathematical interest and to get a sense of what studying Mathematics beyond A Level might involve. In 2015/16 talks in Cambridge included:
- Maths in a Spin About the mathematics of wheels, gyroscopes, spinning tops and a spinning professor.
- Seriously Puzzling About how mathematicians have used puzzle solving techniques to design automated error correction in barcodes, QR codes and text messages.
- Maths and Meerkats A short look at the vast amount of mathematics which is used in the design of CGI animated movies with a little help from Aleksandr the Meerkat.
We also arrange visits to the local campus of Essex University, with whom we have close links.
In the summer term, the department organises a morning of activities and lectures from guest speakers. Past activities have included constructing bridges and towers from spaghetti and making complex mobiles that balance. Our guests have talked about the mathematics of juggling, the encryption algorithms behind internet security, chaos, applications of decision maths in the real world and complex numbers.
Support for Students
The department has an open plan Maths Study Area where students are welcome to come and sit and work on homework or practice questions . Staff are generous with their time and are always willing to help students who are struggling with a topic. In the weeks before external exams the department offers a range of revision classes and workshops.
For a couple of years now, we have organised a popular and successful mentoring scheme. Second year volunteers are paired with first years for weekly one-to-one sessions. Mentors benefit from having to go back over what they learned in first year. The first years benefit from having peer interaction.
Stretch and Challenge
All students have the opportunity to enter the United Kingdom Mathematics Challenge in November. Approximately forty students are awarded certificates each year and several of our students have progressed to the British Mathematical Olympiad rounds.
The department offers extension lessons for year 2 students hoping to take the Advanced Extension Award Paper in Mathematics or the Sixth Term Examination Papers (STEP) set by Cambridge Assessment. These offer excellent preparation for students hoping to study Mathematics at university and are sometimes qualifications required of students hoping to get into top universities.
- Q: What grade do I need at GCSE to start an AS Level course?
A: AS Level Mathematics You need to have achieved grades A*, A or B. We recommend that students with a grade B opt for the AS Use of Mathematics course. If you do have a grade B and wish to follow the AS Mathematics course, you will need to pass an algebra test that we shall set at enrolment.
AS Further Mathematics Ideally, you need to have achieved a grade 'A*' at GCSE. If you have a grade A and wish to follow the AS Further Mathematics course, then you will need to pass a test that we shall set at enrolment. Questions will test your understanding of some of the more advanced parts of the GCSE syllabus and your problem-solving skills.
AS Use of Mathematics You need to have achieved a grade B or better at the higher tier of entry.
AS Statistics You need to have achieved a grade B or better at the higher tier of entry.
- Q: What is the difference between AS Mathematics and AS Use of Mathematics?
A: AS Mathematics is a more abstract course than AS Use of Mathematics and is more algebraically demanding. Two-thirds of the course comprises pure mathematics which builds on the algebraic work covered at GCSE including solution of equations, manipulation and simplification of expressions, functions and their graphs, and trigonometry. One third of the course concentrates on applying mathematics and students take a statistics module. AS Mathematics is well-suited to able mathematicians with an interest in the subject for its own sake. In the past, students with a grade B at GCSE have often struggled with the AS Mathematics course and we therefore recommend that they consider AS Use of Mathematics.
Use of Mathematics is focussed on mathematics in the real world. Heavy use is made of technology – specifically graphic calculators (every student needs to buy one), computer software (Excel and Autograph) and the internet. There is an algebra module that focuses on using mathematical functions to model phenomena such as radioactive decay, the growth of mobile phone use and the path of a projectile. A second module is about the collection, presentation and analysis of statistical data, whilst a third focuses on a relatively new area of mathematics called Decision Maths. This last module looks at problems such as finding the shortest route through a network of roads and how complex projects need to be planned to minimise costs.
- Q: What is Statistics?
A: Statistics is concerned with the collection, presentation, analysis and interpretation of data and also the use of probability to predict behaviour in "real-life" situations. You are likely to have done some basic work in statistics as part of your GCSE Mathematics course and you may even have done a GCSE in Statistics. You will be using statistical techniques if you do 'A' Level courses in subjects such as Biology, Economics, Geography or Psychology. The kinds of problems that you might consider as part of your study of statistics include:
- The probability of winning a share in the jackpot on the national lottery is 1 in 13 983 816. How is this calculated?
- Can people tell the difference between coke and diet coke?
- How large a sample is required in order to make reliable predictions about the outcome of an election from an opinion poll?
- If 8 out of 10 cats choose Kittychunks to some other brand of cat food, how strong is this as evidence that cats in general prefer Kitty chunks?
- Can predictions be made about the numbers of goals that will be scored in football matches played next Saturday?
- Q: What is Decision Mathematics?
A: One of the modules on the AS Use of Maths course is entitled Decision Mathematics and many AS Mathematics students will go on to study a decision mathematics module in their second year. Decision Mathematics concerns itself with a variety of techniques for solving real life problems that arise in business and industry. Many of these techniques (algorithms) can be implemented on computers. The kinds of problems you will consider in Decision Mathematics include:
- How should the jobs necessary to complete a project be sequenced to minimise the time taken to complete it?
- Given a network of roads connecting two towns, what route should be followed to minimise the distance to be travelled in a journey from one town to the other?
- What is the cheapest way of laying cables on a housing estate so that every house can access cable TV?
- If a postman needs to walk along every road in a village, starting and ending at the post office, what route should he follow to minimise the distance he must walk?
- How can a computer be programmed to sort a list of names into alphabetical order?
- Q: I want to study some statistics, what are my options?
A: As part of an AS level Mathematics course you will study a “Statistics 1” module and you can go on to study a “Statistics 2” module in your second year. Alternatively, if you wish to do more statistics than this, you can opt for AS Statistics. This course can be taken alongside AS Mathematics but you do not need to do so. If you take AS Statistics in your first year and pass it, then you will have the opportunity to continue through to A level Statistics in your second year. As you would anticipate from the titles, the AS Statistics and A level Statistics courses involve the study of statistics modules only. The AS Use of Mathematics course includes a statistics module called Data Analysis.
- Q: How many lessons a week will I have?
A: Students are timetabled for six 40/ 45 minute lessons per week for each AS course on which they are enrolled in the department. Thus the majority of students who enrol on one AS course will have six lessons per week, but students who, for example, take AS Further Mathematics as well as the AS Mathematics course are timetabled for an additional six 40/45 minute periods a week. A few students take AS Statistics alongside AS Mathematics or AS Use of Mathematics, and these students too have twelve lessons per week.
- Q: What is Further Mathematics?
A: Students who are particularly interested in mathematics and who are good at the subject can opt to take more than just a single A level in Mathematics. By opting for Further Mathematics in your first year, you will study mathematics for twelve periods in each week and achieve the qualifications AS Mathematics and AS Further Mathematics at the end of the year. In AS Further Mathematics lessons, students study some (more difficult) pure maths in a module called FP1, some introductory mechanics in M1 and some introductory decision mathematics in D1. In their AS Mathematics lessons these students study statistics (S1) alongside C1 and C2. Students who successfully complete the two AS levels in their first year can, if they wish to, continue with twelve lessons of mathematics per week in their second year with a view to achieving A level Mathematics and A level Further Mathematics by the end of year 2. Alternatively, students may wish just to complete Mathematics to A level and just leave their Further Mathematics qualification at AS level. In that case students just have six lessons of maths per week in their second year.
An alternative route into Further Mathematics is to pick it up in year 2, having achieved a good grade for AS Mathematics in year 1. Students who do this have twelve lessons of maths per week in their second year and will finish their time at College with AS level Further Mathematics and A level Mathematics (all being well!)
- Q: For whom is Further Mathematics suitable?
A: Further Mathematics is suitable for able students with a keen interest in mathematics. We would normally expect a student starting the Further Mathematics course in year 1 to have achieved a grade 'A*' at GCSE. Students opting for AS Further Mathematics in year 2 have normally achieved a grade A or a high grade B at AS level in their first year. Students considering going on to follow a degree course with a high mathematical content would greatly benefit from doing Further Mathematics. It is also a very prestigious qualification to have if you are considering applying to an institution where there is a lot of competition for places.
- Q: I need to resit my GCSE, what are my options?
A: Depending upon the GCSE result you achieved at school, there are several options:
- Foundation Level (Accelerated)
D at Higher Level/D at Foundation Level
The key thing here is that you were close to achieving a grade C at school. Students take both exams in November in the hope of achieving a grade C as early in the year as possible. The course is taught in 6 lessons per week. They then continue on 3 lessons per week and sit the Functional Skills LVL2 in the January exams. If they do not achieve their grade C in the November exams they have another opportunity to sit GCSE in June.
- Foundation Level
D at Higher Level/D at Foundation Level
This course is for students who would like more time to prepare for the exams. It is taught in 3 lessons per week and exams are taken in June. The students also sit the EDEXCEL Number & Measure Award Level 2 in January.
- Higher Level
Grade C at Higher Level
This is a short course with examinations in November aimed at improving the grades of students who have already achieved a grade C at school. Students starting their second year who wish to take an AS course in subjects such as Mathematics or a science subject or Computing will need to have achieved at least a grade B for GCSE Mathematics.
- Functional Skills Level 2
Grade E or below at Foundation/Higher Level
This course is to help students who need a lot more support and are working towards GCSE in year 2. Students take EDEXCEL Number & Measure Award LV1 in January, Functional Skills LV1 in February and finally Functional Skills LV2 in May.
- Foundation Level (Accelerated)
- Q: What kind of calculator will I need and where should I buy it?
A: Students enrolling on a GCSE course at the College need a basic calculator with scientific functions (sin, cos, tan etc). We particularly recommend that your calculator has a fraction key. Basic scientific calculators are inexpensive and widely available. You probably already own one!
Students enrolling on AS Mathematics or AS Statistics only need a basic scientific calculator, but many of our students purchase powerful graphic calculators and these are certainly a very useful tool when studying Mathematics at advanced level.
Students enrolling on AS Use of Mathematics or on the International Baccalaureate MUST BUY A GRAPHIC CALCULATOR.
If you do not own a graphic calculator but would like one then DO NOT buy it before coming to College. Because we have such large numbers of students starting courses in September, and hoping to buy a graphic calculator, we are able to negotiate substantial discounts on your behalf. When you come to College we will give you more information about which graphic calculator models are available and about how to go about purchasing one.
- Q: How big are the teaching groups?
A: There are 18 to 24 students in most of the AS Mathematics groups with A2 groups being slightly smaller. Most lessons are timetabled into the suite of rooms in the Mathematics department, which also includes an open plan study area where students can work between lessons and seek extra help. Half of Use of Mathematics lessons are timetabled in specialist computer rooms where students can access a wide range of electronic and online resources.