Junior Cert maths paper 2: Harry Potter fans spellbound by Horcrux question

Paper criticised for ‘high level of literacy’ required to answer key questions

Question 11 was one for the Harry Potter fans and involved a complex geometric construction to create a Horcrux symbol.  File photograph: Warner Bros/Reuters/Handout

Question 11 was one for the Harry Potter fans and involved a complex geometric construction to create a Horcrux symbol. File photograph: Warner Bros/Reuters/Handout

 

Harry Potter fans were spellbound by a challenging question, which asked students to construct the Horcrux symbol -  better known as the “sign of the deathly hallows” -  in the Junior Cert higher maths paper.

Overall, teachers said paper two was a mix of very traditional exam questions and more challenging scenarios that gave higher grade students an opportunity to show off their skills.

Among the problems presented to students included calculating airport baggage weights and designing stairs.

Eamonn Toland of TheMathsTutor.ie said many questions were “well-scaffolded” with diagrams, tables and instructions to lead the students into the solution.

“Others such as question eight on the slope of a line were more open-ended and students had to decide on the best approach for themselves,” he said.

Question 11 was one for the Harry Potter fans and involved a complex geometric construction to create a Horcrux symbol.

“This was certainly more challenging than traditional questions examining single constructions,” he said.

As dedicated Harry Potter fans know, the symbol represents three object that if united make one the “master of death”.

They are the elder wand (represented by the straight vertical line), the resurrection stone (the circle) and the triangle (cloak of invisibility). Sadly, no marks were available for explaining this.

Elaine Devlin, a maths teacher at De La Salle Secondary School, Dundalk, Co Louth, however, was critical of language used in the question, which may have thrown some students.

“The word Horcrox would have been new for most students. I don’t know if this is the day to introduce new language to 14 year olds,” she said.

“Along with Horcrox, it asked about an equilateral triangle and perpendicular bisector, all in the one question.

“There were a lot of big words and a higher level of literacy was required. There are enough demands on students without worrying them on that front.”

She was also critical of the use of imperial measures in question 14, which asked students to calculate the radius of a nine-inch pizza.

“The maths was challenging, but you would have to question the use of imperial measures in the metric world these children live in.

“They might know what a nine-inch pizza looks like, but they would never have worked with imperial measures. It’s gone from their world,” Ms Devlin said.

Overall, she said students would have welcomed the lack of formula-based questions, a feature of project maths-era reforms.

“In general, there were some nice, easy questions. There were a number of ok ones. And I would say there were a number of difficult and challenging parts to questions,” she said.

Mr Toland noted that question 13, about the Atomium building in Brussels, was partially recycled from the Leaving Cert ordinary paper in 2016.

The ordinary level paper also required higher literacy levels, but in general it was very “doable”, Ms Devlin said.

“There were demands made on them which tested their level of literacy, but there was a degree of familiarity with questions on Netflix and Spotify. ”

Try this at home

A new action camera is sold in a box that is 5cm high, 14cm wide and 24 cm long.

Thirty-six of these boxes are packed together and a cover that is 1cm thick is put all around the outside of the boxes. Work out the dimension of this cover in cm.

From Junior Cert higher level maths paper 2.