British Educational Standards - Maths

Discussion in 'The Quarterdeck' started by Always_a_Civvy, Apr 26, 2007.

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  1. I have just been reading an item on BBC Online and come across a news item that has astonished me... and I though I was bad at maths!

    At the bottom of the page are two questions, one from a Chinese test for pre-entry University undergraduates, the other a question that a British University has given to first year undergraduates. This latter question was the type of question that we were given at school in 1979 for our O Level Maths!!! Who said standards aren't falling! 8O 8O 8O

    PS: I failed my O Level Maths :oops: :oops: :oops: :D
  2. I also noted in the press the other day that Universities are having to give remedial Maths to first year students.
  3. The Chinese example is the one which should be passed by all British applicants. The British example is not hardly worthy of being included in a Maths GCE(O) Level paper. That's GCE not GCSE which we all know is of a far lower standard.
  4. Hi

    I noticed this in the Telegraph the other day.

    I managed the English version, in fact it is so simple that calculators or brains aren't really required, basic 3-4-5 triangle and I only managed a pass in GCE Maths in 1970.

    My youngest is 11 and was having trouble with maths homework so set about helping him.

    I had to try to explain why he needed to know algebra, surely this is the teachers job not mine. Anyway I managed to relate it to when he is out buying sweeties and did such a good job I even managed to convince my wife she uses basic algebra when shopping but does not realise it.

    Now how do I explain the need to know how to prove that X Y Z is an isosceles triangle or the volume of a cone.

    maybe they won't do that that'll be degree level :wink:
  5. Of course they may well have picked the easiest from the UK paper and the hardest from the Chinese.

    Maths in UNiversity is sometimes a problematic area, to the mathemetitian even the chinese problem is pretty wimpish but to an engineer it may be quite reasonable. Engineers and most scientists need to use maths to solve problems but to mathemititians the maths are the problem. Over the years I have known a few 'pure' mathemetitians and most of them were for the want of a better word wierd or a bit like computer nerds. At Newcastle (and I suspect other universities) they have special maths classes for engineers rather than trying to get them t join in with the real mathematitians.

    Really I think this is just another journos filler story.
  6. chieftiff

    chieftiff War Hero Moderator

    Hmmmm! Looks like someone just wanted to get their agenda in the news and some journo was more than willing to entertain them on a slow news day!

    The clue is in the titles really, problem 1 is an entrance test, the mathematics required to solve it are no more difficult than those required to solve the second problem. It does take considerably longer and requires a higher level of understanding, an ability to "read Maths" as the clues are in the question and the confidence in mathematics to be able to define exactly what you intend to do and why as the last part leaves one with several options.

    Problem 2 is a diagnostic test, it's purpose is merely to establish a fundamental understanding of trig and as most people have noted it should be easily within the ability of any GCSE student to write down the answers with no working.

    There is an issue in Mathematics in this country, but it is not the ability of mathematicians it is a general apathy with regard to the subject. Probably lots of reasons for this, a lack of qualified Maths teachers in schools, leaving teachers of other subjects to deal with the problem, in my opinion they tend to be less inspiring because they themselves aren't inspired by the subject. A perception that the subject is difficult, obviously it is not if you find it interesting and a brain drain of good mathematicians into the economics world. The move away from the more abstract and philosophical aspects of mathematics has led to a more practical approch "engineering mathematics" whilst this is appropriate for some careers it denies students the beauty and history of the subject which ultimately serve to inspire. How many people have you heard refer to their "Maths" degree as a BSc, traditionally mathematicians were awarded a BA for good reason, it is an art, most now get the choice and as employers outside of academia assume a BA is just pink and fluffy stuff they opt for the science.
  7. Just wanted to point out that although the requirement of this question may be low the standard isn't neccesarily so. Admittedly i go to a top end school but i firmly believe that any of us is capable of maths as it was in the "good old days".

    p.s. the university is unspecified. Entrance to Oxbridge and their competitors (Durham etc.) is harder than ever

    Current A-Level student
  8. Must be true,i put 2 and 2 together and got 14046!!!
  9. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker War Hero Moderator

    How's about this... The RN Recruiting test, in it's various guises has remained unchanged since 1943 unlike any other examination method in the UK.

    Spookily, the amount of people passing, failing, scoring very low & very high, despite the rise in numbers of the population has.... wait for it....remained unchanged. Basically despite evolution we, as a nation, are no more 'cleverer' or 'stupider' than we were 64 years ago.

    The Government(s) don't want that broadcast- so let's keep it to ourselves, eh?
  10. chieftiff

    chieftiff War Hero Moderator

    Long ago, in a place far far away people knew this fact, people don't get cleverer from year to year. These gifted people in a civil and fair society realised that the difference between examination results was primarily due to the way questions were posed and the people who posed those questions. This society was called success. In a flash of inspiration the leaders of the land called academia decided that the top 10% of students then the next 10% and so on were as clever as those who had come before them. In the interest of making academic ability clear to all they decided to have a floating marking system, the top 10% would get an A, next a B and so on. For years and years all members of the society knew that they could fairly gauge their future employees and rely on examination results as being fair.

    This society flourished, its engineers and tradesmen were the best in all the lands their academics were honest and true to their calling, the society was well. One day a little insignificant man came along, he was upset that he had not excelled in his studies and wished to join academia, the little man sought the law as his ally, he protested that "it was not fair" if he had but been a year older he would have an A and academia would welcome him. The little mans father was called money so he was listened to by government, it then came to pass that the sucessful society changed its way, money said the old system was unfair, some were not sure but money convinced them it was so. Society soon saw that the old ways were obviously wrong and outdated, money was no longer needed as "fairness" had won the day. This society used to be called success!

    Edited because I do maths not spelling!
  11. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker War Hero Moderator

    Like it Chief Tiff- And from a professional exam-taker too!
  12. Very eloquently put chieftiff
  13. I got 22! :wink:

    When I applied to join the Submarine Service (and failed the medical) I scored very high in the Navy's recruiting test despite my Maths being crap. It MUST have been harder before 1980 and afterwards. So nice of the Navy to give my the super easy paper! :lol:

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