Thursday 21 September 2017

After Friday, would the maths gods balance the positive and negative?

While section A of higher level was reasonable, Section B of Paper two was certainly more challenging
While section A of higher level was reasonable, Section B of Paper two was certainly more challenging

Eamonn Toland: Teachers View

The consensus after Paper One was that Leaving Cert Maths Ordinary Level was too difficult, and higher level a bit easier than usual. Yesterday arrived with everyone wondering would the gods of maths (Pythagoras?, Bernoulli? or even the chief examiner?) do something to redress the balance?

For higher level, it seems so. While section A was reasonable, Section B of Paper two was certainly more challenging.

In particular, a probability question about a basketball player brought in elements of sequences, a topic more often featured in Paper One. This aligns with the Project Maths philosophy of setting questions that draw from multiple areas, and students need to be aware that the old rules no longer apply. Nonetheless, it was long and challenging, based on some very advanced underlying maths.

By contrast, inferential statistics, a new topic this year which has caused much confusion among students and teachers, was tested with a straightforward question. The problem was quite similar to a sample question released earlier this year, so students who had done their research will be rewarded.

Overall, it's the contexts and applications section that students will remember as being the more testing.

At ordinary level, the pendulum also swung back for Paper Two, which was significantly more straightforward than Paper One. It included a lot of traditional elements, as opposed to being typically Project Maths style, especially in Section B.

The new inferential statistics topic featured, but was kept to a minimum, appearing only as the second half of Question Six.

Question One would be familiar to anyone who uses Bank of Ireland's online banking. However, it does seems a bit unfair to model the question exactly on one particular example of such a system, which made it much more accessible to those already familiar with how it works.

The contexts and applications questions were welcomed by many as being quite straightforward and not too verbose. However, from a Project Maths point of view, there was not much there in terms of combining elements from multiple strands as we should expect. This is in contrast to the creative problem solving that is required in the Leaving Cert Higher Level Section B.

Eamonn Toland is the founder of, an online support system for Project Maths.

Irish Independent

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