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Why does the wording of GCSE maths questions have to be so difficult?

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by gainly, Nov 26, 2019.

  1. gainly

    gainly Lead commenter

    One of the biggest problems I find with the students I tutor is they cannot understand what the question is asking them to do. Once I explain it they are often able to do the calculation fairly easily.

    This is an example from an AQA paper I was doing with a student yesterday.

    k = n^2 + 9n + 1
    Mo says, “k will be a prime number for all integer values of n from 1 to 9” Show that Mo is wrong. You must show that your value of k is not prime. [3 marks]

    What is being asked is actually very simple, but he simply couldn't understand what was required until I explained it. I wonder if the questions are tested on typical year 10 or 11 pupils to see if they can understand them.
     
  2. gainly

    gainly Lead commenter

    Here is the examiners' report for that question, clearly many students had difficulty understanding what was required.

    Approximately half of the students were able to work out at least one correct value for the expression, but only a small minority could then identify 91 as the value that was not prime and then go on to show that it was not prime. There was a significant number of non-attempts for this question.
     
  3. DBizzle

    DBizzle New commenter

    Surely that’s the point of the question though.If the question were phrased “substitute k= 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 into the formula, find the answer that isn’t a prime number and factorise it” then it would just be testing basic mathematical skills rather than understanding of terminology and the logic behind counterexamples. Which would be fine at the start of a paper, but I’m guessing this was towards the end where the latter skills are being tested rather than the former
     

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