Higher-level maths paper deemed fair as record number of students take it

There were a record number of students entered again for the higher-level Leaving Certificate maths.

The number who decided to drop down to ordinary level will only be known when results issue in August. However, previous patterns suggest at least 16,000 of the 20,000 previously indicating they would do higher level are likely to have sat the exam yesterday.

It was the first of two maths papers, and the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) subject representative Robert Chaney said it was fair.

While it was heavy on sequences and calculus, he observed that it was light on challenging algebra, complex numbers and financial maths.

Mr Chaney said it was well received by students at his school, CBS Thurles in Co Tipperary, but they needed to be well practiced for a proof by induction of De Moivre’s theorem.

A question on the sieve of Sundaram algorithm was an interesting application of arithmetic sequences that would have tested problem-solving skills.

Julija Zliobaite, Sam Andersen, Rachel Coady and Anna Moynihan, after their Junior Cert Maths paper 1.

Another was about difference equations, which Mr Chaney said although not on the course, could have been completed if they followed the instructions.

“Unfortunately, the format and terminology would have thrown many students,” he said.

For the ordinary-level exam, probably taken by over two thirds of Leaving Certificate students, Mr Chaney said the first paper had no surprises in terms of the complex numbers, algebra, functions and sequences.

“There was an interesting question on the levels of a medicinal drug in the bloodstream, of which the last section stumped any students that didn’t realise [they needed] to use calculus,” he said.

Trish Holland and Grace Fannon, are all smiles after completing their Leaving Cert Maths paper 1.

Mr Chaney said that a question about earthquakes under the sea was a quick one that would have given any student who was able to manipulate the given formulae a nice finish.

While that brought an end to the first Leaving Certificate papers, it is another round of maths on Monday morning for students.

Susan Mulholland said there were a lot of visuals and welcoming tests of literacy and numeracy in the morning’s higher level geography paper.

The ASTI member who teaches at St Laurence’s College, Loughlinstown in Co Dublin, said the exam was very fair and used clear concise language.

She was pleased to see data presented in a range of different ways, including a table of consumer prices for several countries and a pie chart showing the origins of EU asylum applicants.

There were many topical issues such as Storm Ophelia, and a renewable energy question in which students were asked to identify the potential impact on local people if their area was chosen for a windfarm or other renewable energy development.

Ms Mulholland had a little concern about the effect on students of the time that might have been taken up with the first four short-answer questions, which she said were heavily skills based. Overall, the paper was deemed positive for the range of visual and interpretative skills that students were required to use.

For ordinary level students, Ms Mulholland thought questions were well broken up into three, four or even five sections. While they were wordy in places, they were fair and allowed students move clearly from one part to the next.

She said the short-answer questions were very nice and, although an economic elective section was a bit wordy, the exam allowed students show a lot of their skills.


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