Students ‘delighted’ after maths, but Irish exam poses challenges for some

Leaving Cert exams wrap: teachers said students would have been comfortable working through short maths questions, while long questions required careful reading

Students were pleased to find there were “no gremlins” to trip them up in Monday’s Leaving Cert higher level maths paper two, according to teachers.

“The consensus was overwhelmingly positive,” said Niall Duddy, maths teacher at Presentation College, Athenry and subject representative for the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI).

He said there were little hints thrown into questions, which meant it was very “user-friendly”.

“Of course, there was the usual sting in the tail at the end of each question, which is what you would expect anyway,” he said.

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Brian Scully, maths teacher at the Institute of Education, said the higher level paper was “an accessible sibling to paper one” with a “few novel moments to distinguish those confident in different contexts”.

Overall, he said there was a good mixture of questions that gradually increased the challenge of the paper.

There was a similar reaction from Stephen Begley, head of maths at Dundalk Grammar School and a subject expert with Studyclix, though he said section B of the paper was more challenging.

“Students would have found today’s paper two busier than Friday’s paper one – but fair and doable,” he said.

Begley said many will have found the short questions in section A very standard and reasonable, while section B’s long questions put students through their paces.

“Looking at topics covered the regular features of statistics, probability, trigonometry, geometry, the circle and the line dominated the short questions, while longer questions were based on statistics, probability, the circle, geometry and trigonometry,” he said.

Scully said students would have been comfortable working through the short questions, while long questions required some careful reading and thinking.

“Later questions migrated to distinctly higher level-only concepts, but the progression was logical and offered the opportunity for those students striving for H2s and H1s to distinguish themselves.”

The ordinary level maths paper, meanwhile, was “accessible” with no surprises, according to teachers.

Robert Chaney, maths teacher with Presentation Secondary School, Kilkenny, said there were “plenty of hints and scaffolded questions to lead the candidates”.

Jean Kelly, a maths teacher with the Institute of Education, said most students will feel their work paid off after an ordinary level paper with questions that drew from well-worn study material.

In the Leaving Cert Irish higher level paper one, meanwhile, there were mixed views on the level of challenge posed by the exam.

Some teachers said many students will have left exam halls disappointed after a “surprising” paper did not include key issues and topics for which many prepared.

Clare Grealy, Irish teacher at the Institute of Education, said much-anticipated topics like homelessness, war and violence did not appear in the essay section.

“At first glance many would have felt disappointed to see those key issues absent,” she said. “There were opportunities to use this material, as there were ample chances to use material prepared for the orals, yet these were indirect.”

Lorraine Finn, an Irish teacher at High Cross College, Tuam, Co Galway, offered a more upbeat assessment of the paper and said most students would be happy.

“The first part of the exam, An Chluastuiscint, was fine. The only difficulty would be with the questions in Cuid B (Section B) where the first conversation was about climate change. I think some of that vocabulary could be quite challenging, it would have been difficult for some of the weaker students [as] the questions were quite specific about the topic of climate change,” said Ms Finn, an ASTI subject representative.

In Cuid II (part 2), students are asked to write a 500-600 word composition which can be an essay, a newspaper article, a story or a debate/speech.

“The big question of course is the essay, which I would say that up to 80 per cent of students do,” she said. “The titles were quite general, and the students would have had an opportunity to write about different topics. The question about life in the countryside, how it is and how it will be, was a little bit unusual. Other than that, the essay titles were fine,” she said.

“I would expect that most students would be happy. There was one question about the power of social media, which is a topic they would have covered in class. There was another question which asked if everyone in society today has a good life, and that would be seen as a very generous topic, one which students could easily write about. There was another question about Ireland and international matters, again a topic that would be covered in class. There was also a question about sport, a topic that would always be covered.”

In the other sections, where students can compose a scéal (story) or a díospóireacht (debate) or óráid (speech), Ms Finn said they were as they would be expected.

“The students should not have had any difficulty with these topics,” she said. “The [topics] that came up were ‘It is better to holiday in Ireland than abroad’ and ‘The role of music in people’s lives. There was nothing this year on Gaeilge which was a bit of a surprise as there would normally be something on the language.”

In the ordinary level paper, Ms Finn said there was “nothing unusual” in what was a very general paper, while Ms Dolan said the paper was well-received and student-friendly.

* The article was amended on Tuesday, June 11th, to correct a misattributed quotation

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