Mixed assessments of higher-level maths paper that allowed plenty of time to finish

There were mixed assessments of yesterday’s second Leaving Certificate higher level maths paper.

Bríd Griffin, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) subject spokeswoman, said students were quite happy and were not under pressure for time to finish.

“The instructions were very clear, they didn’t have to try reading a lot of English to decipher what was being asked,” Ms Griffin said.

Many students were disappointed that Friday’s first higher-level paper did not have any financial maths. However, Ms Griffin said they would have been relieved that it appeared instead on Paper 2.

The significant level of sequences and series on Friday’s paper was followed by further examination of the same topic in yesterday’s paper.

Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) maths spokesman Robert Chaney thought the appearance of financial maths in an untraditional spot was one of a number of challenging aspects of the exam.

It was tagged onto the end of a statistics question, with minimal connection, seemingly just to fill a gap,” he said.

Mr Chaney said students found it a more challenging exam than Paper 1 three days earlier, particularly in the second section on contexts and applications. He said there were more places where students could get stuck or tripped up yesterday.

He also referenced the re-appearance of sequences in a question that involved the dimensions of some garden railings. However, at least it had a purpose and reason, he said, contrasting it with the rationale for the financial maths question.

Mr Chaney also complimented a question about a crank-and-slider mechanism, giving students an opportunity to show their understanding of geometry, trigonometry, and functions.

Ms Griffin said she thought a question on probability may have left some students scratching their heads, and the last question was a quite challenging one on trigonometry.

“Having said that, they shouldn’t have been under any great pressure for time,” she said.

For the majority who were taking the ordinary-level exams, Ms Griffin said yesterday’s second paper was well-received by students with very clear language.

One thing that came across this year was that the reams of English has been eliminated and it was very clear what they were being asked to do,” she said, echoing her comments about the higher-level exam.

Ms Griffin said the statistics question was quite appropriate in the current hot spell, as it was based on a table of rainfall and sunshine in a Co Kerry weather station every June from 2001 to 2010. She also commented on the easily understood language in the questions on the weather data.

Mr Chaney agreed that it was quite an accessible paper that had few challenges. While he welcomed the avoidance of excessive text and unfamiliar problem-solving, he considered the weather question the only one of any interest or colour on the exam.

A very challenging listening comprehension section was one of the main topics of discussion after the first Leaving Certificate Irish exams.

In one news bulletin item, students at all levels struggled to hear what the male voice was saying.

Ruth Morrissey, TUI’s subject spokeswoman, said it was understandable that students would find it tricky to understand. She also thought some of the composition titles limited students’ scope to use vocabulary or knowledge they had.

For example, an essay about people in public life who students have respect for might have been restrictive, as they might have found it easier to think of people who do not command respect. Similarly, writing about an improving economy might not have been as easy as doing an essay about the opposite signs such as homelessness or health, topics they might have had prepared ahead of the oral exams earlier in the year.

Topics such as climate change and the impact of social media would have been welcomed, and those who prefer to write a short story would have been pleased with titles around revenge and the value of friends.

ASTI’s Irish spokesman Robbie Cronin agreed about the difficulty of the aural test, and he thought the questions were challenging, even if the examiners tried to use student-friendly topics such as storms, job opportunities for carpenters, and a course undertaken by Leo Varadkar.

On a positive note, he thought the appearance of climate change and the Irish language and the Gaeltacht were fairly well expected.

It was a very positive written paper, but I have my doubts about the listening comprehension,” Mr Cronin said.

He reported ordinary level students struggling to keep up with the pace of the aural test, but thought the questions on it were appropriate for this standard of students.

The written exam was fair, he said, with plenty of level-appropriate choices such as favourite TV shows, breaking school rules, and having a conversation with parents.

Mr Morrissey also considered the composition titles student-friendly, saying that many topics were ones they might have prior knowledge or practice of since Junior Certificate. The story titles included one about remembering a ticket while waiting for a bus to a concert, or being at an enjoyable party after winning a match.

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