Lesley Spence – Took A level Maths as a mature student

Name: Lesley Spence

Occupation (before retiring):
Speech and Language Therapist working with school aged pupils (including nursery) and training teachers and teaching assistants

Qualifications: Diploma in Speech and Language Therapy

What stimulated your interest in maths, and when? Getting older and realising that to understand physics (which underpins most things), I needed a better understanding of mathematics. A remark made on Radio 4 that Mathematics was the pivotal point between imagination and creativity!  It made me think I was missing a lot.  All this about fifteen years ago.

What influenced your decision to take A-level maths? I had the time; I had just retired and I wanted to learn more, not just get old.  I had joined a Science Discussion Group organised by University of the 3rd Age and was the Weakest Link.

What maths had you done before this course? O Level maths nearly 50 years before

How did you find the course? Having gained an A grade GCSE pass first, I found it really challenging and fast moving.  My peer group at college was much younger than me and I felt a bit isolated.

What was it like taking exams again? Taking the exams was horrible as I found it so difficult to work at the pace required.

What did you enjoy most about taking A-level maths? Feeling I was going through a new door and gaining insight into a new world.  Being able to look at my son’s research work and make sense of statistics.  Being able to help my grandchildren with their GCSE Maths!

What was the most challenging thing about taking A-level maths? My lack of a working background.  O Level maths in the 1950’s was a bit different.  Unfamiliarity with speaking the language of maths.  Being afraid of asking questions and looking stupid.

Do you have any advice for someone who is considering taking A-level maths as a mature student? Accepting that it might be hard and developing courage in asking for more help.  This means trying to identify what you are understanding first, where any breakdown is and explaining this.  Accepting that it is going to require a big commitment of time and effort.

Do you have any future plans for learning anything else new? I won’t attempt more examinations but am constantly learning through the U3A Group, reading and watching the amazing maths and science videos available.  

Other thoughts? Never be afraid to praise and enthuse about the contribution of maths to our daily lives: it is not acceptable to boast that “I don’t do maths” when we all rely on it