Maths exam too hard, not too easy

1st October 2004 at 01:00
I am writing in response to your front-page article on A-grade maths (TES, September 17). I am head of mathematics at a selective girls' independent school.

Our pupils routinely have a 100 per cent pass rate (grades A* to C). Our maths GCSE results reflect the considerable academic ability of these pupils: this year almost three-quarters achieved grade A or A*.

However, our candidates emerged from the maths examination sessions feeling extremely downhearted. The papers had been so demanding that a significant number of the questions were inaccessible even to able mathematicians.

This is reflected in the embarrassingly low grade boundaries quoted in your article. They are not low because mathematics is easy. On the contrary, they are low because the papers were too hard and grade A candidates were able to tackle only about half the questions successfully. Consequently, a significant number of good mathematicians came out of the examinations feeling they "cannot do maths".

At a time when there is great concern regarding the future of mathematics in this country, examination papers such as these exacerbate the problem.

Across the country able, young mathematicians will have decided after the exams that maths is too difficult for them, and they will have chosen not to do maths at A-level.

With GCSE exam papers such as these, the number of mathematicians in our country will continue to decline.

Rosemarie Frost

28 Cunningham Hill Road St Albans Hertfordshire

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