'Fair overall' though tricky elements cause mixed feelings


LEAVING CERT MATHS AND PROJECT MATHS: Both papers were well received in the main although a few unusual questions featured

IT OPENED nicely but the Leaving Cert ordinary level maths paper one got trickier as the time ticked away yesterday afternoon.

Most students (about 70 per cent) do the ordinary level paper and the response was decidedly mixed. “Overall, it was a very fair paper,” said Eamonn Toland of TheMathsTutor.ie.

Jean Kelly of the Institute of Education agreed, describing the paper as “appropriate for ordinary level maths students”.

While teachers said question one was very straightforward, difficulties cropped up as students progressed through the paper.

“The (c) parts in questions two and three were quite testing,” said Teachers’ Union of Ireland representative Bríd Griffin, a teacher in Carlow Institute of Further Education.

The traditionally easier (a) part of the complex numbers question (Q4) could have been made clearer, Ms Griffin said.

Series and sequences (Q5) proved to be a nice option but unfortunately it’s not a very popular question among students. Question six threw up a few issues. “Part (b) threw up the major stumbling block for students,” Ms Griffin said.

“That’s very unusual as you would normally expect part (c) to be the more challenging section.”

Mr Toland had an issue with the (c) part of the same question. “Part (iii) of (c) was unusual, asking students to graph the derivative – very easy but not something they may have seen before, so would have thrown the less confident students,” he said.

One surprise for many students would be that differentiation by first principles did not come up, for the second year in a row according to Mr Toland.

Question seven was well received by most.

Interestingly, Ms Kelly noted a nod to the fast-approaching project maths syllabus. “There were hints to the forthcoming changes to the maths paper in how some of the questions were presented,” she said, describing a question in which students were given a graph and very specific questions related to the interpretation of that graph.

“This is in keeping with the imminent transition to the project maths syllabus,” she said.

This year saw a leap in the numbers taking higher level maths, thanks to the introduction of bonus points. Any student who takes higher level will have 25 points added to their CAO tally. So if a student gets a D3, they will receive 45 points plus a bonus of 25 bringing their tally for higher level maths up to 70 points.

The paper drew a mixed response. “My students were very pleased,” said Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland representative Brigid Cleary, a teacher in St Flannan’s College, Ennis. “The higher level students didn’t like part (c) of question eight much,” she continued. “But overall the reaction was very positive indeed.”

The paper was described as “reasonable but occasionally intricate,” by Aidan Roantree, maths teacher in the Institute of Education. He described the (c) parts of certain questions as “very testing”.

“It was a very long paper,” Ms Griffin said. “Having said that, there was nothing too far removed from previous years.”

“Some of the part (a)s were not as easy as you would expect. For example 4(a) on arithmetic sequences was a bit harder than last year’s corresponding question,” Mr Toland said.

Meanwhile, the project maths exam gets its first full outing this year. The new syllabus is being introduced on a phased basis in schools around the State but the complete course is being taught in 24 pilot schools and those students are now halfway through the first full project maths State exam.