Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Higher Maths

There has been controversy this year over the SQA Higher Maths exam in Scotland.

However .... many people I have spoken to, including some in my family, did not have a particular problem with the exam. Although others were reporting some pupils to be quite distressed by the exam.

Some of the questions were designed in a way that had been experienced by those doing the new Higher. So that would have been a disadvantage to those sitting the old Higher.
There has also been some discussion over the wording of questions, where the question was not entirely clear.

Now the problem is that if they were to remove these questions and base the exam results on the other questions then this could actually disadvantage someone who had originally done better in the exam and could lead to people who originally had a lower mark coming out on top ...

Some pupils just did not even attempt certain questions...and it is possible that these pupils therefore had more time to check their other questions ... whereas those who struggled with the difficult questions may have had no time to go back and check their answers.

On a simple level lets take an example of a eight question exam for a total of 20 marks, with questions increasing in difficulty as the paper progresses.
If achieving full marks, the marks per question would be ... 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4

Now lets assume Pupil 1 finds maths quite hard so they achieve the following marks :
1, 1, 2, 2, 1, 3, 0, 0  (total = 10 / 20)

Pupil 2  is better at maths and achieves :
1, 0, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 2  (they have attempted the last few questions but had no time to go back and check the earlier questions)
(total = 16 / 20)

Now, if the last two questions were removed as deemed too difficult, the marks for both pupils would then be Pupil 1 = 10/12  and Pupil 2 = 11 / 12
Now,... these pupils now appear to be much closer in results than the actual marks illustrate.

So ... how can these pupils be differentiated ? Should they both now get an A ?

Well perhaps that would be OK .... BUT there must never be a case where a pupil ends up with a lesser mark having originally had more marks.

For example lets say there was a Pupil 3 who achieved  1, 1, 0, 1, 3, 3, 4, 3

This pupil originally achieved  16 / 20 (equal to pupil 2 and much more than Pupil 1)
but if the last two questions are removed Pupil 3 would only score 9 / 12 and may well be allocated a B .... which is LESS !! than Pupil 1. This is patently unfair ...

No pupil should ever achieve a mark less than they originally achieved. So if they were heading for an A or a B on their original score then that should not be reduced.
Fine, there may need to be some adjustment for pupils who have taken the wrong meaning from a question if there is agreement that the question was badly worded.
But these decisions must not be taken lightly as people's futures depend on these results.
This is unfair to that pupil but also negative to society in general if we don't get those who are best at maths into for example engineering etc.

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