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Higher Maths Exam

Discussion in 'Scotland - education news' started by CheesyWotsits, May 21, 2012.

  1. I don't think exams need to appeal to the masses. Exams are a way of someone demonstrating they have certain skills and knowledge.
    By attaching maths to contrived contexts (to make it more interesting) you detract from the beauty of maths itself. You want applications of maths? Sit physics or tech studies.
    The worst thing that could happen to higher maths is for someone to attempt to model a ladder leaning against a wall with a straight line equation.

    eg "The ladder is an angle of Pi/3 radians to the horizontal. Given that the window the ladder reaches is at the point (0,5) state the equation of the line the ladder lies on"

    I'm not being trite here. I know that there are real applications of the applications of higher maths, but most of the skills learned exists within pure maths with no practical use in the real world. Straight line graphs, for example, have little use in the real world, but understanding them is essential to understanding Cartesian geometry and functions in general.
    Same with circle and translation of functions. Maths for Maths' sake.

    If examiners were under pressure to attach contexts to maths exam questions, what you'd see are examples like I gave above - same as what happened when they tried to attach contexts to Standard Grade. Pointless problems which cause needless difficulty for the reader in trying to figure out what planet the examiner is on if he needs calculus to work out how quickly a ladder is sliding away from the wall.
  2. I used to think your way, but having taught in Canada for a year I realised that if you want to make the general population more interested and appreciative and positive about maths then you need to show them something of it's uses. Using calculus for optimisation problems or velocity/Acceleration problems or logarithm graphs for experimental data or exponentials for growth problems would not have been difficult and well within the confines of the syllabus. For most of those sitting the Higher exam it is the last thing they will remember about maths.
  3. But it is done (where appropriate) as part of the course. Most people don't regard exams as a positive experience anyway and by adding the obstacle of question/context interpretation into the exam, it only makes the experience more negative, IMO.
    Context, where appropriate, for lessons, but not for exams.
    I did notice that you used the usual suspects for appropriate context.
    What contexts would you use for , eg
    • straight line
    • circle
    • quadratic
    • trig addition formula/double angle formula
  4. I would very much like to see a little more support given teachers on the uses of math "in real life". Everybody knows how often the question "When am I ever going to use this stuff" comes up. I don't have time to research this with every subject and grade level, but wouldn't it be nice if the textbook writers would take on this project and put captions in the margins for why each topic is studied??? Wait a minute. Maybe I should quit teaching and do this...

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