Mixed views on Leaving Cert higher level maths paper 2

Mixed views on Leaving Cert higher level maths paper 2
Eoghan Ruane from Midleton comparing notes with Sarah-Jane Lewis from Cloyne, after completing their Leaving Cert Engineering papers at St Colman's Community College, Midleton, Co Cork. Picture: David Keane.

There were mixed views on today's higher level Maths Paper 2. Some teachers said that students were left scratching their heads after "challenging" and "wordy" questions, while others said that it was a "true Project Maths" exam that would have rewarded problem solvers.

There had been a generally positive reaction to higher level Maths Paper 1 last Friday morning, with many students hopeful of a repeat yesterday. While some will have been happy with what was on the test, teachers said there was "a significant jump in standard" between the two papers.

Eamonn Toland of the MathsTutor.ie said: "There was a lot of tricky geometry and even question 1 was not completely straightforward. Some students are likely to have been disappointed that financial maths did not show up in either paper."

Bríd Griffin, maths spokeswoman for the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI), was more upbeat about the paper, though:

While it was a bit more of a mixed reaction than Paper 1, there was nothing too unusual, no real surprises, but there were some very long questions that would have taken students a lot of time to get through.

Ms Griffin said that many students would have been pressed for time if it came to reviewing their work at the end of the exam.

Sean Donnelly, teacher and maths expert at Studyclix.ie, said that the paper was a "true Project Maths" paper that would have rewarded problem solvers: "The most notable thing about this year’s Paper 2 is without a doubt the amount of thinking a student is forced to do without being given all the variables or even an approach.

"It was a very good indication of what project maths is all about, with less marks being available for proofs or constructions, and more for performing the kinds of thought experiments that are required for probability in particular."

Mr Donnelly said that questions on probability and coordinate geometry "didn't offer too much of a challenge" but that trigonometry questions may "have caused some more doubts", though.

Students sitting the Ordinary Level exam faced some tricky questions, including long and wordy questions but the general consensus was that it was a "fairly straightforward" exam. Ms Griffin said that there were some concerns from students about the construct of some questions. She specifically referred to Question 8, the two parts of which were unrelated.

"Typically, there would be a theme in a single question but these could have been two separate questions - it may have thrown some students," she said. Once maths had been finished, students turned their attention to Irish Paper 1.

The Higher Level paper was described as "timely" with essay questions including options on Brexit, the housing crisis and women in sport. While there was a good range of options here, students were less keen on the listening comprehension, which was described as the hardest in recent years.

Emer McTernan, Studyclix.ie expert teacher and Irish teacher at Jesus and Mary Secondary School in Enniscrone, said that many of the essay titles will have been welcomed by students, though they also could have presented a potential challenge.

“Some students’ assessment of the listening comprehension test was not as favourable. The phrasing of the questions was quite long in some cases and the standard of vocabulary used was also quite high. Many students felt it was a more challenging listening test than what has featured in previous years," Ms McTernan added.

The Ordinary Level paper would have been widely welcomed, she said, adding that it was "very much in keeping with recent trends".

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