Saturday 17 February 2018

Exam Diary: Maths prayers were answered...but no epiphany as exam weariness takes hold

Leaving Cert diairist Dearbháil Clarke
Leaving Cert diairist Dearbháil Clarke

Dearbháil Clarke

Weariness is starting to set in, as the weather gets humid and heavy. We all trudged into our exam halls like sweating carthorses yesterday morning - toiling towards some promise of momentary rest.

My friends seemed fairly amicable upon exiting their Geography exam. The majority of the questions were approachable and expected, they agreed. The concerning lack of horrendous papers from the SEC continues, then.

I prepared for Maths 1 in a fog of anxiety. I am a logical person, and can work with ease around mathematical formulae if you disguise them in subjects like Chemistry, but once my brain is confronted with a straightforward maths problem it says "no" and shuts down.

It's a complete mental block.

I can trace this avoidance right back to its source: I refused to learn my times tables in primary school.

I was one of those children who leapt hungrily onto the subjects she enjoyed doing, and didn't understand the point of working on the ones she wasn't good at.

I hated repetition. Why would I want to memorise and stiffly recite my times tables and Irish grammar rules over and over again, when there was a whole world of literature and science to explore?

I didn't really grasp the concept of fundamental knowledge until quite recently. I got by with intuition and calculators.

That's a major flaw with the way maths is taught in schools, I think. Teachers work from an assumed knowledge that some of us don't share, or teach practice without teaching the theory behind it, which is how I learn best. It's also possible that there's nothing wrong with their teaching methods and I'm just incredibly dull - I've never studied pedagogy, I'm just a struggling student.

So then, you understand why I was praying for attempt marks when I opened up Maths Paper One. I trundled my way happily through the six initial questions. The inclusion of Paper Two-esque elements didn't faze me, considering I was working through the questions with a logbook and a healthy measure of reasoning anyway.

The longer questions were rife with problems, alright. Particularly the closing parable of Amanda and Cathal, and their worries around depreciation and gas prices. I closed my eyes and heard the voice of my father. "€25,000 this year, €18,000 the next...It's mad. And this car EATS the diesel, so it does."

It didn't give me any sort of epiphany, but it amused me. I wrote down some formulae, multiplied this by that, made up some algebraic expressions for Cathal and Amanda's plight and let it be before the examiner got sick of reading my numerical waffle. Attempt marks, I tell you. Attempt marks.

I was quite surprised when I got home to find the entire internet in uproar about the unfairness of the Ordinary Level exam. I thought it was just me, lagging behind the curve as usual. Don't worry, friends. If we're all in the same boat, attempt marks will rain from the sky.

Enjoy your weekend, all. Maybe the things we learned for Paper One will appear in Paper Two. You never know, apparently.

Irish Independent

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