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IB prejudice

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by David Getling, Jan 24, 2011.

  1. Incidentally, DM, I'm very impressed your stepson did well on about 10 past questions. I'd guess most people only start getting confident after at least 100 questions or so.
  2. Yes, but the real problem is the ALGEBRA. That is what kills of
    the kids from bscs. It takes years to accumulate the experience
    of doing algebra. Without it one is lost.
  3. DM

    DM New commenter

    I don't either.
    If people feel STEP serves a narrow elite then they always have the option of taking AEA as this is designed for the top 10% of A Level mathematicians. This is a better choice for many as it provides a recognised qualification and STEP is not recognised in the Qualifications Framework.
  4. DM

    DM New commenter

    He is bright. He is really lazy though and coasted through A Levels. He is finding it a struggle at Warwick without me to make him work.
  5. Thanks for you commens D Franklin which, to me, authentically describe STEP.
    So to link that back to what's happened with pre-U:
    Is it that the people who were setting the STEP paper were deluding themselves that they were testing deeper ability through the type of quesion on STEP paper and thought that they could apply the same thinking to an A-level standard paper?

    It seems to me that instead we should be looking at personal assessment systems.
    Which country is it that has personal vivas for A-level? Is is Hungary?
    Surely as tools like mymaths make it easier to cover the content at A-level there is room for some wider work, problem solving work or coursework. In this age of broadband communication technology it should be possible for A-level students to work collaboratively with real current research and practical projects (like STEM but individual)?
    EPQ could be harnessed as a tool for assessing such work.

  6. Yes, this is something that's a shock compared with modern A-levels. And yet, after doing hundreds of STEP questions, most people find their algebra has improved a lot...

    (I do agree that it takes time for the skills to get absorbed - but most people find 6 months sufficient).
  7. DM

    DM New commenter

    I have to say that, as I far as I know, none of my students have ever gone to those extremes. I usually issue the Siklos booklet to them at Xmas in Year 13 and then photocopy one STEP past paper per week for them for the last 6 weeks or so before study leave begins. I look through their attempted solutions with them and point out possible problems and ways forward.
    I have never had more than one Cambridge mathematics offer holder at a time (none this year) but, if I get one, I always invite two or three other students to take STEP as well to keep them company. I have only ever been lucky enough to have one student selected to attend the Easter STEP school at Cambridge (that was last year) but she unfortunately failed to make her offer by one grade.
  8. bombaysapphire

    bombaysapphire Star commenter

    I did STEP from a bsc in a group of 1. I don't remember doing many past papers and definitely didn't start doing them until well into Year 13. I managed an S and a 1 so clearly someone had managed to develop my algebra skills somewhere along the line.
    I teach in a bsc now. We have had tiny Further Maths groups for the last two years, although that should have picked up for next year's Year 12. I have one student in Year 12 who will be applying to Warwick and possibly Cambridge next year and so needs to do STEP. I am doing some training with the Further Maths network to get me back up to date so I can help him to prepare. While I can see the benefits of a group to bounce ideas off that just isn't something that we can offer.
    Based on the few papers I have done so far the challenge does not appear to be the content, but training the students to set out their thinking in a clear and rigorous way. Surely that still has to be a useful skill at university even if standards have dropped?
  9. Yes, Yes Yes, STEP is bloody hard, but it is no prepararation for university mathematics. At Cambridge you will never do anything like the STEP sort of mathematics ever again.
    When I did the Oxford entrance scholarship exams, 35 years ago, there were questions on abstract mathematics, the like of which we had never seen before. Those of us who could think on our feet, thrived on that sort of stuff.
  10. DM

    DM New commenter

    This is the advantage of having large year groups - I already have my eye on four in my Year 10 top set who look like they will be good enough for STEP (if they stay with us and don't go to a rival institution post-16). There are a couple of other good prospects in the other top set too.
  11. DM

    DM New commenter

    That post was in reponse to bombaysapphire not Polecat.
  12. bombaysapphire

    bombaysapphire Star commenter

    It will be a good year for us if we get 4 taking Further Maths. There are advantages to classes of 1 & 2 though. One of them is ill and I get a free! The marking load is manageable too. I don't think it's the best thing for the kids though.
  13. Thank you - I shall take that as a complement! :)
  14. DM

    DM New commenter

    When I started at my school our further maths group sizes were 2 in Year 12 and 2 in Year 13. Seven years later we have 12 in Year 12 and 9 in Year 13 and send about several to university to read mathematics each year. We still lose several of our best mathematicians each year to the local Sixth Form College which is frustrating (they said they would be offering IB this year but withdrew this option at enrolment).
  15. DM

    DM New commenter

    unnecessary "about" in that post
  16. Well, for most people, 300 questions would be overkill, yes. What I mean is that 300 questions might be a lot, but it's not impossible, and if you've done that many, you probably won't do any better because of independent school cramming.
    For people doing STEP I, that seems reasonable. For people doing STEP II/III, more would probably be beneficial (but I understand that resources are limited). Obviously everyone varies, too.
  17. Not true - I've seen STEP questions that could have come straight from the Tripos. (Not terribly recent STEP questions, I grant you). And last year had a Laplace transform question, for example.
    It's interesting you mention the Oxford exams. Talking only about the current ones, I see evidence of a dichotomy amongst students. The Oxford students think they are as good, or better at testing aptitude than STEP, and the people who've done STEP think they'd absolutely destroy the Oxford MAT. I suspect the STEP people are right - mainly because they've generally done far more preparation than I see people do for the MAT. But on that basis the MAT would be far more vulnerable to "independent school cramming".
    To be clear: I have no idea how this all works out in practice, and I'm not Oxford bashing; I don't think I'd have got a worse education at Oxford, and I suspect most people get a better one.

  18. Oxford bashing?
    No this thread is about A-level bashing; didn't you notice?
    The worrying thing in all these debates is this: which part of the population SHOULD drive the content & structure of current A-levels?
    A handful of highly selective uni's got the A* grade introduced, yet only a few hundred will ever be asked for this grade in a uni offer......should they drive the system if they also have a hand on STEP? If they recruit mostly from a tiny sector of schools, why should these universities be allowed to dictate the agenda of the mass of pupils?
    The vast number of university students are asked for grades in the A-C region; I think it is these pupils we should be aiming A-levels at.
    (The IB Pre-U etc students are so small in number that they can be ignored. A passing phase that'll die out over time.)
  19. No need to stir this forum JC.
    And I'm not knocking STEP. It's a good way of providing and extra stretch for potential Cambridge candidates. They set high STEP grades with the offeres, then when the results come in of the students who haven't got the STEP grades the ones they tend to let in will be the ones they know (from applications and interview) will have had little or no support in preparing for the exam but who still did well at interview (obviously or they wouldn't have got an offer).
    Seems fair to me. Seems to work!
    Now - where's Pixel to tell us about her findings?


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