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Why is Maths Important for Further Education & Jobs?

06/09/2023 / Maths Tutoring

There’s a reason that mathematics has been the most popular A level subject since 2014. Maths plays a crucial part in many further education qualifications and career paths – and we all use it in daily life too, no matter what goals we’re pursuing at work or in school.

So why is maths important for so many aspects of a student’s future? Read on as we explore the pivotal role of mathematics in education and in work.

Why is maths important in further education?

Maths in a variety of subjects

Maths plays a role in a wide range of subjects that you might study in university – even those that might not spring to mind when you think about maths skills. That means maths may be one of the A levels you need to succeed on (or be admitted to) your chosen course.

For example, let’s look at the top 10 most popular A level subjects as of 2023:

  1. Mathematics
  2. Psychology
  3. Biology
  4. Chemistry
  5. History
  6. Sociology
  7. Business studies
  8. Art and design subjects
  9. Economics
  10. Physics.

Of course, mathematics is absolutely integral to economics. It’s also crucial in physics and chemistry and plays a part in biology too.

How about psychology and business studies? Well, at least 10% of the marks on psychology A level exams and on business A level exams must relate to mathematics.

For sociology A level, too, students are required to analyse and interpret quantitative data – in simple terms, numbers. The only subject in the top 10 with an exam specification that doesn’t mention either maths or quantitative data is art and design.

In other words, many university courses are going to require at least one A level that has something to do with maths, even if they don’t require maths A level specifically.

Once you’re studying these topics at university, maths will still be there. In fact, as you’d expect, mathematics expectations at university are more advanced – and universities may not recap those maths skills, anticipating that their students will arrive ready to go with mathematical tools in their arsenal.

Additionally, no matter what course you’re on, you may also get involved with research, which requires mathematical competencies and statistics.

Which university courses require maths at A level?

On the other hand, a large number of courses do require maths specifically.

For example, at Oxford University, maths is required for a plethora of courses including biochemistry, computer science, economics, engineering, human sciences, medicine, physics and philosophy. Some of these courses require further mathematics too, making maths even more important.

Can taking maths boost my chances of getting into university?

Research from University College London in 2018 suggested that taking maths at A level was linked with attending a higher-ranked university. In fact, prior to 2019, maths was on the list of “facilitating subjects” that Russell Group universities said were helpful for boosting chances of admission.

However, in 2019 the Russell Group changed its guidance because too many students were taking STEM subjects over artistic ones. Now, in 2023, it’s likely better to choose a subject you know you can excel in rather than choosing maths if you don’t really feel comfortable with it.

That being said, it’s possible that mathematics can help you get into university in a different way.

Some universities, such as the University of Bath, make what are called alternative offers. An alternative offer is an offer of admission for applicants’ grades, just one notch lower than what would normally be accepted on their desired course – let’s say AAB instead of AAA. With an alternative offer, the university accepts students with these slightly lower marks and allows them to show their skills through an additional educational achievement or qualification.

Amongst the qualifications that can be used on an alternative offer are maths-related qualifications such as Core Mathematics.

So even if you aren’t going for maths A level, a qualification in maths may still help you get into the university of your dreams.

Confidence and maths at GCSE

Because maths in higher education is so important, maths is vital earlier on in education too. That’s because each level of education builds on skills attained earlier – maths at university relies on maths learned at A level, A level maths draws on maths skills learned at GCSE, and success during GCSEs requires strong foundational maths skills even earlier.

Indeed, a study by the United States National Institutes of Health found that students who struggled with mathematics in their very first year of schooling fell significantly far behind their peers in their seventh year of school. That’s because students who fall behind slightly don’t have the skills needed for the next level of material, so they end up further and further behind.

For example, if a student is in a class multiplying fractions, but they don’t have a full grasp of their times tables, they will find it really hard to succeed with the new work since a foundational skill is missing. Likewise, if a student is trying to do long division but struggles with addition and subtraction, they probably won’t be able to get the hang of long division either.

Weaknesses in foundational skills may explain why over a quarter of students didn’t achieve passing marks in their maths GCSE in 2023. The figures for maths resits in 2023 were even more disheartening – 86.7% didn’t pass their resit.

Here we can see that maths is important in another way – not passing maths GCSE can have a huge impact on students’ self-esteem. Having to resit maths GCSE can feel like a huge burden for students who are continuing to study full-time and aiming for university.

That’s why it’s essential to ensure students have strong maths skills all through their education, so that they’re well-prepared with the basics of maths and can enter each new level of study ready to learn more complex material.

If you’re a student who finds maths challenging, a private mathematics tutor might be a good choice to help give you the skill boost you need. This can also help your confidence – a recent report on tutoring found that both parents and teachers of tutored students felt that the tutoring helped improve their students’ mental health and reduced anxiety.

Hire a private online mathematics tutor >

Why is maths important at work?

In January 2023, when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced his new maths initiative, he said: “In a world where data is everywhere and statistics underpin every job, letting our children out into that world without those skills is letting our children down.”

Most office jobs now require competency with Microsoft Excel, which means maths. They may also involve handling money or expense reports and doing many kinds of mathematical calculations.

Jobs outside the office often require maths too. You might have to think about maths topics like area (how much carpet?), rates (how much paint do I need per square metre?), weight (how much weight can this wall or this vehicle bear?), or voltage.

Some food for thought about maths in careers comes from a recent report on “the future of work” by the global consulting firm McKinsey. They found that demand for labour in eight countries including the UK will change in many ways in the future.

Many of those ways will mean a greater need for advanced maths skills. For example, older populations will mean there’s a greater need for medical and medical technology occupations.

Why is maths important for adult life beyond work?

Learning maths isn’t just important for academic studies and your career. It’s also important for daily life – especially financial matters, which every adult has to handle.

A Harvard Business School study found that more maths education during secondary education was actually better for students’ future finances than a dedicated personal finance course. The authors theorised that perhaps better maths education allowed students to get higher-paying jobs, or perhaps better maths literacy just helped students to make better financial decisions when they became adults.

It seems that, again, grasping maths well earlier is the key to mathematical and financial success later on.

Make sure you’re thriving in maths with Principal Tutors

No matter what you decide to study in school or which career you choose, it’s clear that maths skills have a huge impact on every adult’s life.

And it’s also clear that maths success starts early. Students who have strong maths skills in earlier years are confident and ready to succeed in the future.

Principal Tutors’ private maths tutors are here to help. Every tutor at Principal Tutors is a qualified teacher familiar with the UK curriculum, so you’re getting personalised help from a subject expert. We also focus on making the perfect match between tutor and student, ensuring that each child gets just the right tutor for their needs and learning style.

If you’re curious about how private maths tutoring can help your student thrive, give us a call on 0800 772 0974. Or if you’re eager to get started with tutoring, try our online form to request a tutor today.


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