Maths is going to be tested as a double subject at GCSE
Secondary schools in England are to pilot a "twinned" maths GCSE - in which maths could be taken as a double subject, worth two GCSEs.
This will allow pupils to study the subject in greater breadth and depth, in both pure and applied maths.
The schools testing the idea would begin doing so in September 2010 - with more possibly joining in from 2015.
This week an international study found that secondary pupils in England were in a global top 10 for maths.
There had been previous plans for a double maths GCSE course in which there would have been two self-contained qualifications.
But there had been doubts about how this would work for pupils who only wanted to take a single maths GCSE.
Under the new proposals, maths will remain available as a single, self-contained GCSE course. But there will also be an extra choice of taking a separate double maths course, which will be worth two GCSEs.
This would have to be taken as whole subject - rather than two separate halves as originally envisaged.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families says that the two sections of the "twinned maths" will examine "mathematics in everyday contexts including financial applications" and "problem solving within mathematics".
Schools Minister Sarah McCarthy-Fry said the new option "will be accessible to students who have a good grasp of the basics and want to learn more".
"It will broaden and deepen their understanding of the subject, while providing new perspectives."
If the pilot is successful the double subject will be made available to 700,000 teenagers each year.
The Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education welcomed the announcement.
"It has long been felt that a single GCSE does not reward the level of difficulty and the workload compared to other subjects, and that a pair will help address this," said a statement from the committee.
But there was a concern that there was such a "protracted" delay before the twinned maths would be introduced.
The committee's chair, Dame Julia Higgins, also argued that in if the pilot proved successful, the twinned subject should replace the single option.
This week a major global analysis of maths and science standards - the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study - found that 10 and 14-year-olds in England were among the best in the world.
The study found that both primary and secondary pupils were ranked seventh in tests - ahead of pupils in other industrialised countries including United States, Germany and Australia.