New Applications of Mathematics qualification develops learners' skills further

Thursday 29 September 2022

The first group of learners to undertake SQA’s new Higher Applications of Mathematics qualification received their results in August.

In total, 870 candidates undertook the new course, which brings together the use of technology, finance, project planning and statistics which differs from the standard combination of algebra, calculus, geometry, and trigonometry used in a traditional Higher Mathematics course.

Developed in partnership with schools, colleges, universities and employers, the course has been available at National 3, National 4 and National 5 level since 2017. This year, over 14,000 candidates undertook Applications of Mathematics at National 5 level alone.

Sue Pope, Head of Science, Mathematics and Core Skills at SQA said: “Mathematics qualifications are already sought-after for further study and employment in STEM-related areas. However, there is an increasing need for mathematical and statistical literacy skills across a wide range of academic disciplines and job sectors, as well as in everyday life.

“To address this, the Higher Applications of Mathematics qualification focuses on developing the mathematical, statistical, and problem-solving skills required in society and for the future workforce.”

The 2022 exam paper saw questions addressing wide range of topics, including calculating loan repayments, determining pension contributions, and using statistical software to calculate performance in athletes.

Higher Applications of Mathematics can be studied alongside Higher Mathematics; however, the course also appeals to learners who are not taking traditional mathematics qualifications.

Megan Threadgold, a Higher Applications of Mathematics candidate from Inveralmond Community High School said: “I think it’s important for young people to learn the topics covered as the skills gained are transferable to the real world. Higher Applications of Mathematics gave me the opportunity to gain a Higher in a related subject that I found interesting and beneficial for daily life.

 “I learned financial report writing and spreadsheets, as well as gaining knowledge on tax, National Insurance, and loans. I didn’t know much about any of these prior to studying this course.”

Megan continued: “I really enjoyed the Higher Applications of Mathematics course and was very proud when I came out with an A overall – especially  as I was someone who really struggled with National 5 Mathematics and was on the verge of not sitting a qualification in a Higher Maths course!”

The transferable nature of the skills has been well-received by the higher education sector, with the course designed in partnership with Strathclyde, Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt, and Nottingham universities, and has been welcomed by employers.

Sam Greer, Education & Employability Manager at SSE Plc explains how skills gained through the new qualification are essential: “As an energy company in a rapidly growing and changing green skills sector, it is imperative for us to have access to young people with a good appreciation of how maths fits into our industrial applications. 

“So many of our roles wouldn’t function; our Engineers, Data Scientists, Asset Managers, Designers, Planners, and finance teams to name a few, couldn’t innovate and support our business to transition to net zero, without a sound knowledge of maths in a real-life context.”

Higher Applications of Mathematics is open to schools, colleges and training providers, and SQA can help on-board the course.

There is support and resources available to teachers and lecturers, including learning and teaching materials, CPD opportunities, and SQA’s Understanding Standards resources.

For more information, visit the Applications of Mathematics pages.