Leaving Cert maths paper ‘easiest to date’: UL lecturer

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

Eugene Gath, a mathematics lecturer at the University of Limerick: 'I feel sorry for the ordinary level students who were confronted with an impossible paper'
A UNIVERSITY of Limerick lecturer in mathematics has said the higher level paper in the subject this year “is by far the easiest on record” and believes it is now time to take stock.

A UNIVERSITY of Limerick lecturer in mathematics has said the higher level paper in the subject this year “is by far the easiest on record” and believes it is now time to take stock.

Eugene Gath, a lecturer in mathematics and financial mathematics in UL for 25 years, said largely the paper was “on a par with the ordinary level papers of old”, if you strip away certain applications.

Writing in The Irish Times, he said: “Knowledge of actual maths at a high level has plummeted. The syllabus and the paper lack the quality and substance that students embarking on a college education deserve.

“The ordinary level paper 1 is egregious. I feel so sorry for those students who worked hard at their maths, only to be confronted with such an impossible paper.”

He said he hoped the second paper, held this Monday, was fair.

Furthermore, he said many questions tend to use language that is often “convoluted and overly verbose”.

“My experience from teaching large first year classes at University of Limerick is that such questions are disadvantageous to students whose native language is not English, not to mention students with dyslexia etc. We are giving these students a double penalty for their difficulties with the subtleties of English.”

In addition, he said students are now expected to be familiar with concepts from other disciplines, often physics and said in some cases the questions are more focused on physics than maths. “Even the examiners themselves show unnecessary sloppiness with units,” he added.

However, Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan said there was certainly no ‘dumbing down’ in this paper, which she said some students considered to be very difficult.

“The extra marks for higher level maths are designed to ensure that more students aren’t put off taking higher level, and that’s been successful. “We have had a significant increase in the number of students taking higher level maths. We want to encourage them because obviously maths is a crucial subject in terms of economic opportunity.”

“The State exams commission is very careful about how it sets exams. They run the exams really well. There will always be comment on papers, it happens every year. There is no dumbing down of maths. In fact, what we are trying to do is encourage students who have the capability of taking higher level maths to take the higher level paper.”