Saturday 21 January 2017

Maths and geography end week with 'fair' papers

Sam Griffin and Emma Jane Hade

Published 06/06/2015 | 02:30

Grace Filen and Kelly Diggin after sitting their Leaving Cert Geography exam at St Angela’s College, Cork. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney, Provision
Grace Filen and Kelly Diggin after sitting their Leaving Cert Geography exam at St Angela’s College, Cork. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney, Provision
Patrick Barker and David Bird were sitting exams in Richmond Street, Dublin, yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke

Bonus points for Higher Level Leaving Cert Maths saw record numbers sit Paper One on the third day of the State exams. For many, the risk paid off with a 'straightforward' assessment. Teachers were equally pleased with the Junior Cert Maths test and the 'fair' Geography exams at both grades. Sam Griffin and Emma Jane Hade round up the main talking points from the papers.

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LC Maths Higher (Paper 1)

The allure of 25 additional CAO points resulted in record numbers taking on the Higher Level paper but the majority of students will have been satisfied following a "straightforward assessment" with few surprises.

Teacher Robert Chaney from CBS Secondary School in Thurles said some students "had actually been wrong-footed" by the straightforward nature of the questions.

"The first six questions were extremely straightforward - so much so that in certain cases they were actually telling you what to do," Mr Chaney, a member of Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) told the Irish Independent.

"Sometimes the answer came out very quickly, which caught students by surprise," he said, adding the paper offered a nice balance.

Question 7 was a functions question which presented students with a problem around the altitude of an aeroplane as it came in to land.

He said success in the final part of the question depended on students quickly comprehending the symmetry of the plane's flight path.

"If the students realised it was a transformation that they were being asked to do algebraically, I think they would have coped better with it.

"If they didn't appreciate visually what was going on, they would have found it quite heavy going, I think."

The exam was in two parts with students having to attempt all nine questions.

Another challenging part was Question 9 - an ocean oil spill which was increasing in size.

"This was difficult because you're dealing with volume, area, and the radius of the oil spill," Mr Chaney explained.

Students also had to juggle with a variety of units of measurement which had the potential to create serious headaches.

"There was quite a lot going on in this question, which was predominantly algebra with some calculus as well," he said.

Sarah Barnicoat from Firhouse Community College in Dublin, and a member of the TUI, agreed students will have been glad to have encountered "no unforeseen pitfalls in section A with financial maths making an appearance".

"Section B appeared to pose more challenging questions which would have required students to think at a deeper level.

"As the questions progressed, so too did the level of difficulty. However, some parts were more manageable. In comparison to previous papers, there was a lot more calculus examined this year," she said.

Senior maths teacher at the Institute of Education Aidan Roantree said there were ultimately "few challenging areas".

He said many of the questions were "in the spirit of the new Project Maths", including Question 9, which combined different aspects of the course in to a single problem with students left to determine what branches of their knowledge were relevant.

No major suprises for the well prepared

LC Geography

The Leaving Certificate Higher Level Geography paper was a "good test of the whole course".

Neil Curran, a teacher in St Columba's College in Donegal, said that the paper, which was taken by thousands of nervous students yesterday morning, offered "straightforward" short answer questions in the first section.

"Students had to use their map-reading skills to interpret both OS maps and photographs. Their visual skills were also needed when answering the satellite photos," said Mr Curran, an ASTI member.

"In the physical section, in question one, part C on tectonics in the Irish landscape was unexpected and was quite challenging; question two, part C on isostasy was also difficult and probably many students didn't expect it.

"The economic elective was fine. The human environment elective enabled students to apply their day-to-day observational skills on the subject of traffic congestion and urban decay, particularly those who live in cities," he added.

"The option questions were okay. However, the students who neglected to study soils in geoecology would have been at a disadvantage."

TUI member Clare Fannin, from Adamstown Community College in Dublin, said that question nine may have been an issue for some students as she felt "the map and the writing on the map were not clear and hard to identify in order to answer the question".

Ms Fannin said that students had "lots of options" in the elective section of the paper, but added that the "unusual sketch map in question 10" was "not traditional".

"But, with careful reading and studying of the map, pupils should have been well able to answer."

Ms Fannin also felt that the Ordinary Level paper for Leaving Certificate students was "very good and clear".

"There was nothing unexpected, so pupils should be happy," she said. "The short questions were very clear. The long questions were well rounded and had a great mix and choice for the pupils. A pupil who had revised the syllabus should have had a good attempt at this paper," she added.

A fair and wide-ranging paper

JC Geography

One Junior Certificate student who sat the Higher Level Geography exam yesterday proclaimed that it was "the best paper so far".

Students were very pleased with Friday morning's paper, according to teacher Marie Kennedy, from Firhouse Community College, Dublin.

Ms Kennedy said the short questions were wide-ranging "from all sections of the syllabus" and "would have been well-liked".

The first longer question on earthquakes, volcanoes and rivers was a well received question and "students should do well, there was no surprises here," said Ms Kennedy.

"Question four - farming, tourism and fishing - was also a very popular choice with a high number of students choosing this. The questions were nicely worded and easy for students to understand."

However, question three may have been a surprise. It focused on fold mountains, population, soils and traffic congestion, topics which "have not appeared for a long time," Ms Kennedy said.

"But a student who had covered the syllabus would have been well able to answer this question," she added.

Ms Kennedy, a member of the TUI, said that the "wording" on the first question which asked candidates to "design a tourist brochure" may have "distracted some from their factual essay where they would gain their marks". One student told her it was "the best paper so far this week".

Format and phrasing pose some problems

LC Maths Ordinary (Paper 1)

Some of the "broad church of students" who traditionally sit the Ordinary Level paper will have struggled with the format, language and structure of several questions, according to maths teachers.

ASTI member Robert Chaney, of CBS Secondary School in Thurles, said part C of Question Three fit this criteria. "It was straightforward but the way it was worded may have caused some problem," he said.

He also highlighted Question 4, which was a negative quadratic, as potentially problematic as students would "not be used to this format".

"The mathematics was straightforward but because it was negative, it will have caused all sorts of problems," he said.

He identified Question 6 as another potentially challenging question due to the phrasing of the question, while Question 7 became "more and more demanding".

"Unless students realised what was being asked of them early on, they would have come up against a brick wall." Mr Chaney concluded that students who were well-practised would not have been too fazed but added there will have been those who found it a difficult assessment.

"I suppose you might say the ordinary level paper would have had more people coming out feeling frustrated," he added.

Sarah Barnicoat, of the TUI and Firhouse Community College, Dublin, said the "complex numbers and currency exchange rates questions" would pose a challenge for some students. However, she said there was a better balance for the algebra and sequences and series questions, making these "more manageable".

"Overall, most students could have made a fair attempt at all questions," she said.

Rich reward for those who engage in questions

JC Maths (Paper 1)

The verdict on the Junior Cert Paper One for both Higher and Ordinary level assessments was that students who prepared well would have been richly rewarded.

Teacher Emily Dwyer , from Adamstown Community College and a member of the TUI, said the higher level test was a "wide-ranging and well differentiated" examination of students' capabilities.

She added that Question 14, categorised as a "pattern spotting" problem, was one of the more difficult questions where students were asked to calculate how many different ways a boxer could climb a series of steps.

Ms Dwyer said the problem "required some higher order thinking but high-achieving students should have risen comfortably to the challenge".

ASTI member Tony McGennis, from St Laurence College, Loughlinstown, said students may have struggled with how to correctly word the answering to the final part in this question.

Elsewhere, he said, Question Five, which required students to convert temperatures, awarded students who were willing to engage in the question rather than those who "had learned off procedures".

He also noted the annual simultaneous equation question was kinder than in previous years as a graph was provided to help students form the equation.

"Students came into this exam conscious they would need a strong grade to ensure they could take the higher level exam for the Leaving Cert and I think students were relatively happy overall," he said.

In the ordinary paper, he said there were no "trapdoors" among the fraction and arithmetic questions.

"There was one question on different prices of smoothies, which most students found very manageable," Mr McGennis said.

Irish Independent

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