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A call to A level maths teachers to rebel against the large data set.

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by briancant, Sep 9, 2018.

  1. briancant

    briancant Occasional commenter

    I’ve just been doing this year’s Maths A level paper 3. The first stats question was undoable if students hadn’t memorised a key aspect of the large data set. When I looked at the examiner’s report for the paper it said over 50% of students scored zero on this question! It then said students on the whole hadn’t been properly prepared for the paper! We need to rebel against this nonsense. Memorising information from any data set has nothing to do with maths and shouldn’t appear in any maths exam! Universities want students who can perform calculations, who understand calculus, who can perform complex mathematical analysis. Not students who can memorise some arbitrary bit of data about rainfall in Timbuktu (we’ll leave that to the geographers). We need to start a petition to change this aspect of the A level. I’m sure it’s not just teachers that are unhappy with it; universities must know it’s nonsense as well as exam boards. We’ve had Brexit what about ‘large data set ...exit’? (Ok the slogan may need some work). If every A level maths teacher in the country signs we could change this. Who knows how to start an online petition?
  2. cach9801

    cach9801 New commenter

    Helen used all the data from the large data set for Hurn in 2015 and found that the proportion of days with cloud cover of less than 50% was 0.315

    (a) Comment on the suitability of Helen’s model in the light of this information. (b) Suggest an appropriate refinement to Helen’s model.

    Sounds fine to me.... It's two marks out of 300, and the idea with these is that children have had enough time to play with the large data set and become familiar with this.

    The mark scheme says this:
    (a) Probability lower than expected suggests model is not good

    (b) e.g. Cloud cover will vary from month to month and place to place So e.g. use a non-uniform distribution
  3. briancant

    briancant Occasional commenter

    Hi Cach9801. Thanks for responding. When I wrote this post I expected hundreds of irate A level maths teachers to respond! I didn’t intend to criticize the exam board in anyway. I think they have been told to include questions on the large data set. You are obviously familiar with this question although you have misquoted it.

    Part a) asked the students to write down a probability distribution for cloud cover.

    To do so they needed to know that cloud cover was measured in ‘oktas’! If they didn’t know this they couldn’t access the question that was worth 5 marks (or 10% of the stats questions marks, or 5/300 of the total marks). The point is that knowing cloud cover is measured in oktas isn’t in the specification and isn’t an assessment objective of the A level maths. The best mathematician in the world would have scored zero for this question if they didn’t know about oktas! You may think that sounds fine, but 50% of students scored zero on what was a very easy question! This doesn’t sound fine to me.

    To let you know my interest in this matter. I tutor a number of students from different schools and colleges the A level maths. I have found myself very busy as most places haven’t brought themselves up to spec on the new content. In particular the number of students who are asking me to cover hypothesis testing is extraordinary. They are telling me their teachers are unfamiliar with this topic. None of the colleges or schools are using the large data set as intended. They are doing a one off lesson on it rather than including it as a data source for all the stats topics. Whilst I don’t agree with the use of the large data set I do think centres should use it as intended.

    I’m guessing from your response you may work for the exam board or be responsible for content in some way (A level maths teachers don’t refer to their students as ‘children’). If that is so please take note of my comments.
    sbkrobson likes this.
  4. gainly

    gainly Star commenter

    I would agree with your comments that the large data set seems particularly pointless. You might get more responses if you put this on the maths forum.
  5. briancant

    briancant Occasional commenter

    I'll do that, thanks. Until you mentioned it I didn't realize there was a maths forum!
  6. Skeoch

    Skeoch Star commenter

  7. bluesam3

    bluesam3 New commenter

    Fundamentally, the issue here is that it does not test mathematical knowledge, ability, or understanding. It tests preparation, and preparation alone. That is: it directly forces teaching to the test, and serves no other purpose than that.
    briancant likes this.

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