‘T’ proves to be problem in maths paper

HIGHER-level maths proved controversial again after the first Leaving Certificate paper raised concerns among many students and their teachers.

Although there are claims of an error in part of a parametric equation question, the State Examinations Commission said last night it is satisfied that the question was phrased correctly.

A spokesperson said, following discussions with the maths chief examiner, the commission is satisfied that Question 7 (b), as presented, is correct and the material examined in a question seeking the formula for the area of a disc is within the syllabus.

Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) subject spokeswoman Brigid Cleary said asking for the answer to the parametric equation question in terms of ‘X’ instead of ‘T’, which students are used to, caused problems and will have sent many candidates off on a tangent.

She also felt that another question required them to read a graph in a manner they had no experience of, noting that the same type of question was asked for the small number of students who took the exam in the new Project Maths course yesterday.

Ms Cleary said that, while many other questions were at the same challenging levels of other years, a lot of students did not know what to do on too many questions.

Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) spokeswoman Bríd Griffin noted the wording of the parametric equation question but said she would expect any difficulties to be taken into account when the marking scheme is finalised.

However, she said the paper overall would be very difficult to get an A on and will leave students hoping for a more straightforward Paper 2 on Monday.

Ms Griffin mentioned the challenging final part of a matrices question as an example of its toughness and said the paper did not encourage students who like to use their analytical skills to apply maths concepts.

She thought the ordinary-level paper had a mix of challenging and straightforward questions, with those who were not well prepared for reciprocal functions limited in answering an entire question. By contrast, Ms Griffin felt that other questions from that section of the course were quite manageable.

Ms Cleary said the Leaving Certificate ordinary-level maths paper would have kept most candidates in the exam halls to the very end, and that many found it difficult to figure out from the phrasing of some questions what they needed to do.

She said the higher-level Junior Certificate Maths Paper 1 was fine, although one of the final parts of a question on sets was difficult. She also thought the ordinary-level paper was fine.

Ms Griffin said ordinary-level students who prepared well would have been happy with Paper 1. She said the foundation level exam contained nothing too surprising or over- challenging.

The TUI representative considered the first higher-level Junior Certificate maths paper reasonable, with well-structured questions. However, she also thought that part of a question on Venn diagrams and sets might have left some students scratching their heads and others might have felt the same about a question asking them to find the difference between two numbers rather than the ratio between them.

Meanwhile, more than 27,000 Leaving Certificate geography students had their exams yesterday morning and Dr Tom Hunt of the TUI felt that those taking ordinary level might have been less pleased with their paper than those sitting higher.

He felt there was a lot of reliance on remembering facts and naming things, which might not be a strong point for ordinary-level students. Otherwise, he said the paper was standard and fair, with good visual aids.

Jimmy Staunton of the ASTI felt, while there was a lot to be answered in the ordinary-level exam, there was a good choice of questions, and students were brought through them clearly. He said the higher-level paper was long and may have been difficult for some to complete, but it was a fair exam.

Mr Staunton thought students might have been caught by a question asking them to compare Irish regions for the first time since 2006.

Dr Hunt said there was an interesting twist in the physical geography question that asked students to identify a landform from an ordnance survey map and a question about last year’s Icelandic volcano eruption was topical.

Jacqueline Sheil of the TUI said the higher and ordinary-level Junior Certificate geography papers had an excellent use and variety of coloured visual aids, including photographs, weather charts, maps, bar charts and diagrams.

She said the higher-level paper featured questions on current topics like earthquakes, migration and life expectancy.

Ms Sheil said the ordinary-level exam questions were clear and fair, and pitched at the appropriate level.

However, she felt that a statistical diagram about energy production in Ireland may have proved difficult for some candidates.

Mr Staunton said there was good use of colour and nicevariety in the short questions at ordinary level, while the longer questions were nicely themed to help students focus on topics or skills they are strong on.

He said the higher-level exam had plenty topical issues and good choices, with two questions on map drawing and sketch drawing very helpful for students who are good at those tasks.

No students

- THE exam centre in Malta, where 10 students from the International School of the Martyrs in Tripoli, Libya, were to sit Leaving Certificate papers, has been closed after they failed to turn up.

The State Examinations Commission had sent two superintendents from Ireland to oversee the exams from Wednesday but they are coming home after efforts to communicate with the school throughout the week were unsuccessful.

The 10 students were among 66 who were registered for the Leaving Certificate at the school this year, of whom 14 have travelled to Cork, Dublin and Limerick for the exams.

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