Sunday, 13 July 2014

Didn't take maths at A-level?

When it comes to choosing a-levels, it's difficult to know which subjects to pick. There's often a lot of pressure on people to choose maths if they also want to do any of the sciences, as it is the basis of subjects such as physics and chemistry. I was one of the people who did sciences but not maths. For a while I regretted this and I panicked about the 'catch-up' lectures I was going to have at Uni, but my issue was that I really didn't want to spend two years doing an A-level that I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy or not.

In year 11, my friend and I were entered for the additional maths exam, but our teacher had no time to teach us anything from the syllabus (that's just representative of my school) and so we had two weeks to teach ourselves this syllabus with completely new concepts like differentiation/integration and I think that's where my dislike of maths stemmed from. I really didn't appreciate being left to learn something entirely new with symbols I'd never seen before and not being able to ask anyone for help. I got an E on the exam, simply by teaching myself the basics of differentiation and integration and writing out my workings in slightly different formats hoping they would give me more marks. I had no idea how to do the rest of the questions and spent the next hour counting the bricks on the wall. It's fair to say, after that I wasn't too confident when it came to the subject.

Not having maths A-level isn't the be all and end all. Although I think maths is important and you should be fairly competent at it to work in STEM areas, you don't have to be a genius to be successful. Many universities offer catch-up courses for people without the A-level qualification, as I had to do this year. I actually appreciated the quick pace of the lectures and only learning what we needed to know, as well as the chemical background they gave problems and questions.

As I said, I previously regretted my decision, but now I'm okay with it. There's so much pressure on people to understand maths and be good at it, which results in people being terrified of what actually is quite an enjoyable subject for people like me. I used to be so scared of maths and thought you had to be a child prodigy to understand it, but you don't. Maths is simply learning rules and applying them to a given situation. Mix in a little problem-solving and it's soon quite fun.

 My main message I'm trying to get across in this post is, if you want to do A-level maths, do it. If you don't, but you want to go on to do a science subject at Uni, don't worry. Obviously, if you have a degree and career choice in mind, look at which a-levels you're required to have first. I imagine it would be quite disappointing to choose your subjects and then realise you can't do the course you want.

It will all be fine. Trust me (says the girl who still doesn't know her times tables off by heart)...

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