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A ‘trap’ at the end of Leaving Cert Maths Higher Level 


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A “trap” and “quite confusing” were among the comments made by teachers about the final question on the Leaving Cert Maths Higher Level paper, but with the choice introduced for 2021, students could avoid it.

Since Project Maths was introduced, students have had to answer all questions on this paper, but because of the adjustments, it was down to four out of six in Section A and two out of four in Section B.

The questions were the same length as before, which meant they had more time for each question, said Aidan Roantree, senior maths teacher at the Institute of Education, Dublin

Eamonn Toland of mathstutor.ie said while the extra choice was a great benefit to students, they would have had to adjust their strategy to allow time to choose the best questions.

Mr Toland described it as “very accessible” paper and “thankfully the examiners steered clear of bringing Covid-19 up as a topic.”

Mr Roantree said, overall, there were “no real surprises” and a “good mix of standards and questions” which would “help distinguish the high achievers. Normally algebra dominates the paper, but this year calculus did, he said.

Alan Boal, of studyclix.ie and Royal and Prior Comprehensive School in Raphoe, Co. Donegal said “ a paper with no financial maths once again, will have disappointed quite a few people”.

Mr Toland said that while most of the questions in Section A were quite short, some involved some lateral thinking, such as Q3 on the volume of a cuboid, or were “phrased in a somewhat tricky way”.

Mr Roantree regarded Q6 as ”being trickier than most” and “probably best avoided”. Questions 2, 4 and 5 stood out as being “the most immediately attractive”. #

According to Mr Boal, with 55pc of marks being gained from Section A, it “would set students well on the way for achieving a better grade than what might have been predicted.”

In Section B, the long questions, Mr Toland said while Q7 was “an interesting question involving arc length and calculus which was easy enough mathematically the wording, including phrases like ‘total accumulated angle’ might have caused some confusion.

Mr Roantree said “the obvious and easiest question” in this section was Q8, involving straightforward calculus based on the motion of a rollercoaster.

He said students comfortable with exponential functions would have gone for Q9. Because of the pandemic, exponential functions were widely forecast to appear, he said. However, the question didn’t involve the pandemic.

It was Q10 in Section B that Mr Roantree described as a trap, with an “ extremely attractive” part a, but a part b that was “novel, intimidating and difficult”.

He said “few students would have tried this question on account of this and even fewer will have been rewarded for doing so successfully.”

Mr Toland agree that Q10 was “a challenging problem consisting of a trigonometric function, modelling the growth rate of the trunk of a tree.”

According to Mr Boal, Q10 (b) was “possibly quite confusing for students”. He said “a lot of information was provided about measuring the radius of a tree and various equations given in the question will have been quite difficult to understand for many.”

Mr Tony McGennis, an Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) subject representative said, some people were “jolted” by Q10 (b). “They were sort of shocked that it didn’t lead on from the previous question,” he said.

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