# Sats 2019: the maths question that made pupils cry

Discussion in 'Primary' started by TES_Rosaline, May 28, 2019.

No

3. ### Lara mfl 05Star commenter

I think there could be a case for including it for T & A but it should have been weighted with 2 marks/#.
Actually as an adult, once one stops and thinks, the answer does come fairly easily, but for the average 11 year old probably not.
Being retired I don't know if the system is still the same and from memory towards the end of my tenure it was no longer the case, but years ago the more challenging questions were placed near the end, as it was expected that only the G & A would access them. Certainly I told my children to concentrate on the earlier,easier questions and ensure they picked up all the marks possible.

I'm an adult (allegedly) and I couldn't do it

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5. ### Lara mfl 05Star commenter

Well I'm presuming my answer is correct. It was the only way I could see to break it up using just 2 lines. One line to split off a 5 x 5 'square, which left a rectangle 2 x 5, which then could only be split into a 2 x 2 square, leaving a 3 x 2 rectangle.

Yes. And how could you award it two marks? What response would be worth one mark?

My grandson did it in about a minute. He's not a genius, he's in year 4 and plays a lot of games. I'm convinced that helps.

ViolaClef and Lara mfl 05 like this.

It does but it's not really a maths question , it's a spatial question. Pretty much any year 6 sitting the tests knows what a square and a rectangle are, but it was the manipulation that caught them out. Some of my best mathematicians ( the ones who generally get full marks!) struggled because they just couldn't see it! Some of my weaker ones, the ones you hope can scrape enough marks together over the three papers to at least GET a scaled score, saw it straight away.
Of course, they could use square numbers or algebra or trial and error and yes, once you "get it" , it's pretty simple but it just stopped them in their tracks and threw them off balance. Even if it just takes a minute, that's a long time when you're sitting there panicking because you can't see where to start.The rest of the questions they knew what the maths was, even if they couldn't do it!

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I agree @CarrieV . I get it now, after Lara's explanation but as you say, it's not being able to see it - and I do feel slightly reassured by the fact that some of your best mathematicians struggled with it too!

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10. ### the hippoLead commenter Community helper

No, this is a mathematical question, not a "spatial" question, as I have argued elsewhere. The concept of what a square is and the notion that some squares are bigger than others: these are mathematical ideas, aren't they? (Unfortunately the SATs question uses the word "rectangle" and yes, I would agree that this is misleading and confusing because squares are also a kind of rectangle. Therefore it would be more sensible to refer to all rectangles that are not squares as "oblongs".)

The wording in the question reminds the students to use a ruler. Perhaps some teachers will argue that this is yet another example of Middle Class Bias in the Year 6 SATs, as students from poorer backgrounds will have little or no experience of using rulers. Well, perhaps all exams favour children from Middle Class backgrounds, as Middle Class families are more likely to have books and computers in their houses. Middle Class families can hire private tutors. Does this mean that all exams, of every kind, should then be scrapped because they are unfair? You could argue that any French exam must be unfair because it favours children who have been to France for their holidays.

The question makes it very clear that the two squares are not the same size. If you take this into account, then maybe the question becomes a bit easier. Another thing to note is that the vertical sides of the original oblong are five squares long, so a good place to start might be to have one square that is 5 X 5. Then everything else becomes easy.

Yes, I would agree that any exam or test, whether it is a GCSE, a university exam, a driving test or an interview, is going to have some questions that are harder than others and some that are easier. But what might be a "hard" question for one candidate might be an easy one for another candidate.

Some teachers have claimed that this one "unfair" question invalidates all of the Year 6 SATs papers and therefore these dreadful SATs should be scrapped immediately. Is this perhaps a bit of an overreaction?

There have been reports of children crying after (or during) their SATs tests. Is this really such a bad thing? Would we actually be doing our students the greatest disservice if we removed from all schools anything that might be stressful, difficult or upsetting? Normally, exams are not enjoyable things. Your enjoyment, pleasure and happiness are not what is being tested. But perhaps learning to cope with a difficult exam question might actually be helpful, if it helps to develop a thicker skin and the understanding that not everything in life is easy. If SATs were to be scrapped, would this make things easier for those students who were doing their GCSEs? Or would GCSE candidates find the experience of taking their exams much more difficult and stressful? So maybe their would be more tears, not less. Yes, of course I understand that primary teachers are right to focus on the happiness and welfare of their students, but at the same time it would be foolish to pretend that Year 6 students are going to stay in the primary department forever. The scary monster of exams is going to be waiting for them when they move up to the secondary school, so perhaps meeting its younger cousin in SATs might actually be a sensible idea.

Last edited: May 29, 2019
Pomza likes this.

None of my children cried during SATS, why would they? None of the ones who struggled with the question felt anything more than a bit of blind panic before moving on and coming back to this when they had completed all the ones they thought they could do, no-one has suggested that this one question invalidates SATS or exams in general. My year 6's like exams, especially maths ones! They are used to them and didn't find the exam itself in any way scary or stressful ( except for the local authority monitor who spent over 3 hours in school, most of which was prowling round the room scowling at the children!) But when there is so much in the maths curriculum that could be included, this question just feels like a waste of space. it didn't really test anything other than the difference between squares/rectangles/oblongs!

bevdex, Pomza, cassandramark2 and 2 others like this.

I think the problem is assumptions. In particular it is the assumption that both of the lines must go all the way across the rectangle of the original question.
It is quite common. Common in both children and adults.
When people make sense of the world they inevitably create some sets of rules.

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13. ### caterpillartobutterflyStar commenter

Please tell me you aren't that out of touch with the English school system!

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More of an IQ question suited to lateral thinkers rather than anything suitable for testing mathematical rote learning. I occasionally review my IQ by retesting myself, but you still need to adapt your thinking process to try and match the level of deviousness used by the question setter. A more pure mathematical approach could have used an algebraic approach.

Lara mfl 05 likes this.

Algebra:
Total squares = 5x7 = 35 = (axa) + (bxb) + (cxd)
Where a=largest square (2 to 5), b= smallest square (1 to 4) and c= shortest side (1 to 6) d= longest side (2 to 7).
Only 4x4x5x6 permutations (480) to choose from: computer says answer is (5x5)+(2x2) + (2x3).

Lara mfl 05 likes this.

Now that WOULD have had them in tears!

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17. ### PGCE_tutorNew commenter

You're not serious?
Have you seen Michael Rosen's latest in the Guardian? HERE.

18. ### the hippoLead commenter Community helper

Oh I see. Everything in education (and in life) should be easy, stress-free and require no thought whatsoever. Silly me.

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19. ### the hippoLead commenter Community helper

Yes, CarrieV, I agree with you. It was not such a hard question. Maybe it was not the best or the most suitable question, but hey, that is the nature of exams. And the Year 6s that did this test might perhaps come across exams / tests / assessments again, once or twice.

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20. ### caterpillartobutterflyStar commenter

Nope, not at all.
But certainly no primary school child should be reduced to tears by anything to do with the work set.

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