Use of Mathematics

Qualification: 
A / AS Level
Duration: 
2 years
Level: 
3

What is Use of Mathematics?

As the name suggests this AS is all about using your mathematical skills and knowledge in real-life practical situations in order to model what is happening. You can then use this model to predict what will happen in the future (or indeed what happened in the past), to answer questions about whether one variable affects another variable or to find the likelihood of something else happening.

It is ideal for students who want to increase their mathematical skills in a real-world context or want to study Maths in order to support their other studies. Also, AS Use of Maths is more accessible than AS Maths due to its practical nature and also because it contains less of the abstract, rigorous algebra.

It is particularly useful for students working in the areas of Business Studies, Geography, Psychology, Technology, Science, Accounting, Economics, Computing, IT or Sport & PE.

Much of the work will be done using either a scientific calculator or a computer (with packages such as Excel and Autograph).  Many of the lessons will take place in a computer room, with each student working on their own PC. The use of a calculator allows you to concentrate more on interpreting the results rather than needing to use more difficult algebraic techniques. It is thus a very different style of course to AS Maths and more suitable for many students.

What modules will I study?

You will do a total of three modules to complete AS Use of Mathematics. These are: Algebra, Data Analysis, and Decision Mathematics. The A2 course consists of a further 3 modules: Calculus, Mathematical Applications, and Mathematical Comprehension. All modules are equally weighted. All the units are exam based except Mathematical Applications, which is entirely coursework.

What does each module involve?

The Algebra module will give you the skills to use algebra and graphs in order to model real-life practical situations and then predict results.  For instance, the simple harmonic motion of a pendulum swinging can be modelled to find when the maximum angle occurs or what speed it is travelling at during the swing.  Or you could use previous years’ sales figures for a supermarket to produce an algebraic model and then predict the sales figures in future years.  Alternatively, you could use algebraic expressions to model life expectancy and predict how much longer someone has to live, given their current age.

The Data Analysis module gets you to use statistical techniques to model situations to answer practical questions.  For instance, you might use correlation and regression to see whether global warming is accelerating.  You could use statistical calculations and graphs to say whether telepathy is more likely between people of the same age; whether the increase in university fees has altered the characteristics of university undergraduates; or whether life expectancy is greater for people who live in the country than those who live in towns or cities.

In the Decision Mathematics module you discover how a sat nav calculates the shortest route to get you from A to B, how supermarkets work out the route their delivery vans should take to minimise costs, or the route a postman should take to deliver to every house in a village in the quickest time.  You’ll discover how to plan an engineering project in order to minimise the duration taken to complete the task and which activities are critical and must be done on time, or where to install electricity cables to ensure every house is connected using the least amount of cable.

In A2 Use of Maths, the Calculus module introduces you to the important ideas of differentiation, where you can calculate the number of products to make to maximise your profit, and integration, where you can find the effective volume of your lungs given the air flow rate when you breathe out.  In the Mathematical Applications unit you write two pieces of coursework to demonstrate using the skills you have learnt in a practical situation.  The final Mathematical Comprehension unit is synoptic, testing your knowledge and understanding of Algebra and Calculus.

Progression

Mathematics is highly valued in a very wide range of careers and professions as it provides good evidence of the ability to think clearly and logically. It is accepted almost everywhere as a good entry qualification for practically every subject at degree level. In particular, Use of Maths demonstrates a student’s ability to apply their mathematical knowledge in practical situations – a very useful skill.

Entry requirements

Whilst you must have an average GCSE score of at least 5.5 to do four AS levels, past experience suggests that students with better GCSE grades are more likely to get good results. You can check your likely GCSE point score by going to 'Choosing the Right Course' on the website and entering your predicted grades.

For AS Use of Maths you must have at least a grade B in GCSE Maths at the higher tier (in all three modules, if applicable).  In addition, you need to enjoy Maths!  If would prefer a more theoretical course, you might like to consider studying AS Maths – please see the separate subject leaflet to find out more.

Course costs

All students will be expected to provide their own stationery, textbooks and calculators. The course textbooks, from around £15, can be purchased via the college’s online store at the start of the course. You must also buy a Casio FX-991ES PLUS calculator. This will be used every lesson and has many features that are essential for success in the exam, including solving simultaneous equations and quadratic equations.

You may also wish to buy a graphics calculator, such as the Casio FX-9750GII (around £55) or Casio FX-9860GII (about £82).  The ability to draw graphs will be useful in exams.

If the cost of equipment, materials and trips may cause you financial hardship, there is the opportunity to apply for help from the College Access Fund.

Course code

AQA 9361/9362