Crisis over ‘too hard’ maths paper

2009-12-21 00:00

PRETORIA — Not even 20% of matriculants will pass their maths exam paper one (algebra) if their grades aren’t adjusted.

This is the opinion of Jurg Basson, a mathematics consultant and part-time maths lecturer at the University of Johannesburg.

Basson, who has seen the controversial exam paper, echoed the complaints of hundreds of moderators and grade 12 subject teachers.

After the moderating process was completed, several moderators indicated that there is an impending crisis with regard to maths results.

A moderator in Mpumalanga, who prefers to remain anonymous, said candidates who are not very strong fared extremely poorly, and some achieved only two out of 150 marks for the paper.

Basson said he is very disappointed by the exam paper. It is too difficult and not compiled according to the prescribed guidelines.

According to the guidelines, there must be sufficient questions on levels one, two, three and four.

“That means the compilation of questions must be done in a way that there are enough questions for weaker and very strong pupils.”

He said there are very few questions at level one, which should account for about 30%.

“The implication is that all the weaker pupils, who one hoped would pass, are not going to make it.”

He said there will be no other alternative than to adjust the grades.

Basson said the candidates’ achievement in maths will not improve unless the core of the problem — the teaching of the subject and the quality of the exam papers — is remedied.

Basson said that while teachers in top schools might be satisfied with the paper, there are those in rural and township schools who would not be able to complete the paper themselves.

When matriculants wrote the paper on November 6, Beeld reported there were complaints that it was “utterly unreasonable” and “incredibly difficult”.

Basic Education Department spokesman Granville Whittle confirmed yesterday the department has received reports that the paper was too difficult.

The department will submit all the exam grades to Umalusi, the council for quality assurance in general and further education and training, today.

Umalusi will have to decide whether the degree of difficulty of this particular maths exam paper was fair, as well as whether the grades should be adjusted.

Professor Kobus Maree, an educationist at the University of Pretoria who has a doctorate in subject didactics in mathematics, said adjusting the grades will be pointless.

“Adjusting the grades would be an injustice to the pupils and the university lecturers who will work with them next year.”

He said it seems as if the majority of pupils should rather take mathematics literacy, because the current teaching of maths clearly does not make provision for them.

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