48 Replies to “VCAA’s MayDay”

  1. It is problematic in parts. For example, a previous statement said SACs were going to be “reduced” but the new guide has the big SACs in Methods and Specialist at the same length. VCAA’s argument is they are not changing Unit 3 in any way.

    Running the only SAC in Unit 3 in off-site mode… yeah, nothing can go wrong with that plan…

    1. Application task 22%,Mr. RF.
      Disappointing. Teeth grinding. not reduced at all.
      Have to cope with that and prepare our kids to their best ability.
      I must say,it is meaningless to use open ended task for this year. Have to teach to the test – get the kids done a lot exam questions,AMAP and ASAP.

      1. Yes the fact that the Unit 3 SACs have become more heavily weighted is quite concerning. Anyway, I ran my SAC this week, so I’m glad it’s done. As long as the ranking is decent, I could not care less.

        1. I suspect a reliable ranking could be got using a simple 45 minute test. We need SACs like Custer needed more indians.

    2. Hi, RF. I assume the point is that VCAA took their sweet fucking time telling anybody anything, which them reluctant to, or unable to, change the structure of Unit 3.

      1. Well, they changed the weighting of the Unit 3 SACs to the internal assessment score, and there are schools which would have run their Unit 3 SACs without knowing of this change. (Ours did).

        1. Sure, and that’s a screw-up. But, given VCAA had already screwed up by taking months to tell anybody anything, isn’t that kind of a minimisation of the screw-up?

          1. I can see that side of the argument. An alternative might have been to throw additional weighting to the exams, so that past SACs didn’t have their contribution changed retrospectively. Swings and roundabouts, I guess.

            1. Well, of course I’m for 100% on exams, any year, rain or shine. I can see the argument against that sudden change, though.

              1. Marty, Are you saying that you favour all assessment for a subject to be based on one or two end-of-year examinations, or would you prefer to see the results of examinations during-the-year also incorporated? (I could have framed this as a MCQ but it goes against the grain.) Anyway, I’d be interested in hearing your elaboration.

                  1. Yes, I would definitely prefer that over the current system. Although I’d prefer two exams – one each semester. (Like IB).

                    1. I’m with Marty all the way in spirit and I almost agree with SRK (I’d like 3 exams).

                      I’d be happy with:

                      1) One midyear exam (tech-free): 15 minutes reading time and 90 minutes writing time.

                      (In fact, I’d even take a test like the ones VCAA gave to ‘authenticate’ student CAT work – done under exam conditions and marked by VCAA. Let’s see how they enjoy marking all the open-ended student-chosen-parameters bullshit they lump on teachers).

                      2) Two end-of-year exams covering all of the course but with a greater emphasis on Semester 2 content (it would be too much to hope for that the format would differ from the current end-of-year format).

                      But in reality we’ll never get mid-year exams back (and we never had them for maths).

                  2. Thanks Marty, SRK, and John Friend. As I recall, in our final year of high school in 1964 we had only one end-of-year exam. We had tests during the year, but they did not count towards the final exam. I don’t recall ever doing an assignment in mathematics at school but we did have regular homework.

                    1. Indeed. The good old days of Matriculation Examinations under VUSEB. As I recall, Form 6 (Yr 12 by today’s nomenclature) was only for those who planned to go to University and the matriculation exams were essentially university entrance exams.

                      (Those were the good old days when you could leave school at Yr 10, get a job at the bank, work your way up, and appear at a Royal Commission a couple of decades later).

                      There’s a saying: If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.
                      Unfortunately, things kept getting ‘fixed’. And ‘fixed. And ‘fixed’: VUSEB –> VCAB –> VBOS –> BOS –> VCAA … (and maybe a couple more in between).

            2. It certainly isn’t what I would call “fair” but perhaps the best that could be done without creating too many new issues (there are still new issues). SM got out of it better for 2020 than MM in many ways.

              There is an underlying assumption in all of this that schools teach unit 3 and then unit 4 all within distinct semesters. If a school had (for reasons unknown) taught the stats content at the start of the year…

      2. That is a significant part of the problem but a long way from being the whole of the problem. There is a lot still to play out with this and the consequences will be felt for a few years I feel.

  2. No probability / stats for Specialist is a nice silver lining.

    The inequitable treatment of Methods / Specialist compared to Further is bizarre. Methods / Specialist have lots the equivalent of about 1-2 weeks of content. Further has lost an entire module, which is probably at least a month of content (although I imagine this will depend a lot upon the strength of a school’s Further cohort). In Specialist I’ll probably still be teaching close to the end of Term 3, and the pace won’t have diminished by much, but with Further it’s going to be excruciatingly slow.

    The exam timetable will be another crucial factor, so schools know how much face-time they will have in Term 4.

    1. I’m actually not so thrilled they cut the stats unit. For my students it was easy marks and pretty predictable. Some of the mechanics stuff is a lot less so. But it is the only module they could have, in all seriousness, cut without screwing up a lot more of the course.

      The loss of a SAC is what I am most pleased about in the whole situation, although, again it will benefit some students more than others.

      1. Agreed about the easy marks and nature of exam qs on stats, it’s been the only topic where I’ve essentially just junked any attempt at trying to teach the topic with some integrity and instead said “Ok students, here’s what VCAA will ask you to do in the exam so let’s practice that”.

        But I also think that reveals what a pointless and valueless addition to the course it has been.

        1. Statistics in Specialist could have been great. Many interesting links could have been made to Calculus. If it had been mathematical statistics. But instead, it had to be applied inferential statistics. I agree it’s the most logical part of the course to delete if a reduction in content is the goal (and yes, a lot of easy exam marks are gone).

          I held off on SAC 1 this term (in Methods and Specialist) and will run it at the start of Term 3. I agree with all the comments regarding VCAA’s decision on SACs. So SAC 1 now carries as much weighting as Exam 1? WTF? I’ll also add that having two SACs carrying a total weighting of 34% puts enormous pressure on students – they get stressed enough about SACs already, and now their ‘wriggle room’ if they happen to do badly on one is reduced. It would have been much more logical to keep 2 and 3 and dump 1. (And even more logical to use it as an excuse to get rid of SACs altogether).

          So far, not much comment here on the revision of content made in Methods …. I think Methods is now a real grey area – Probability done in Units 1&2 is fair game, so where does that leave the changes that have been made ….? Should we assume that probability and statistics will only be examined in the context of the binomial and normal distributions? In theory, only pdf’s in general, distribution of the proportion and confidence interval for proportion have been deleted …?

          It would have been nice to get a statement from VCAA about the exam format. I guess we assume that it’s unchanged. We shouldn’t have to be assuming. You would think that some of these hotshots who present at Meet the Assessor would be presenting – remotely – a VCAA Q&A on these changes. It would be entertaining watching some of these muppets give non-answers to the salient questions on everyone’s lips.

          1. Just on the reduction in content from Methods 3&4, I wonder what consequences this could have for Specialist 3&4 next year, because Methods 3&4 is a pre/corequisite and I imagine that there’ll be a significant number of year 11s doing Methods 3&4 this year who’ll do Specialist 3&4 next year. Continuous (non-normal) probability distributions have appeared on VCAA exams for Specialist – see NHT 2019 Exam 2.

            1. Yes, that’s a very good point, SRK. And I bet it didn’t occur to VCAA. The domino effect never gets considered.

              It’s a very good argument for deleting Probability and Statistics from Specialist Maths in 2021 as well. Or maybe VCAA could have two types of Specialist exams in 2021 – one type for Specialist Maths students concurrently doing Methods and another type for those who did Methods in 2020. Or maybe VCAA will cross their heart not to have any Specialist exam questions that require 2020 deleted Methods content as a prerequisite.

              Yeah, nah ….. VCAA will just tell schools to suck it up and sort it out (like they always do).

              1. Grey areas never cease in Specialist Maths exams and now these grey areas start to infiltrate Maths Methods.

                Such a “rectified” study design more or less make things much tougher for kids to confront the high stake exams in at least December. Looks like, also, we must get prepared to sacrifice some leisure time at schools before XMas holiday. But as teachers we must take the responsibilities on our duty to the end.

                Mr. SRK made a number of very good points regarding Spesh. I’d like to add some more examples and my thoughts with respect to the grey area mentioned.

                Limiting equilibrium is definitely NOT stipulated within the 2016-2021 SD (nor in this truncated 2020 version) Nevertheless, to not mention the idea of limiting frictions, the authors must use sophisticated phrases in questions such as “just sufficient to prevent” or “starts to fall” technically because “on the point of moving” is not justifiable without limiting equilibrium content in SD. This is playing with words, not really assessing good maths (and physics related maths).
                On top of 1., I suspect if they put any questions back, involving coefficient of friction, in the end of year. I may be wrong. Recent years only witnessed given resistant forces which are quite dull. Looks like they just want to focus on the students understanding on how a DE is constructed.
                Thinking wildly, would they fry up a fancy question by putting mechanics and vector calculus together, based on the idea of harmonic motion?
                I only have about eight years experience in teaching and tutoring Spesh. Probably Mr SRK and Mr JF knew what I was talking about.
                If that’s the case I will give them a thumb up. Despite that harmonic motion was out for long time, only seen in pre2000 BOS exams, students can still do these sorts of exam questions (of course these questions should be set and vetted in a suitable and equitable way which fits the current study design). Plus, given that it is motion in a plane that will be assessed, things like hovering and ascending helicopters, leisure golf hitting and water fun with spiral slides will not be assessed.
                Assessing calculus in Spesh doesn’t mean mixing parametric equations, differential and integral calculus together for the purpose of making up 10-11 marks multifaceted questions. 2 for show that, 2 for diff, 2 for sketching, 2 for change of variables etc etc. That is tedious and shallow(again I might be wrong but the only interesting part I saw last year in Ex2 is Q1e where I have to abuse the convenience of treating derivative operators as fractions) In fact, it could be some questions involving rectilinear motion, related rates, second derivative and DEs with implied boundary conditions. A cruising plane at certain altitudes will be lovely to test if students have really harnessed their understanding in related rates, rather than just circulating around some inverted cone or volume of y axis revolution with water leaking/filling/both as height changes.
                Typical DE questions tend to be confined with asking whether students are able to differentiate, substitute and verify initial conditions. The only good question I could recall was the 2011 mixing solution problem. However, exam 2016 repeated the same theme but just encompassed some common aspects. (One of a reputable friend told me if Desolve/dsolve were used to tackle part a) then only 2/3 will be awarded, sadly. This is not encouraging students to demonstrate their good understanding in outcome 3)

                Taking 2011 Q5 as example, one could observe that (forgive me if I don’t use Latex here)

                (X*(1+t))’ = dX/dt (1+t) + X

                So if certain hints were provided students could also be asked to use integration “by recognition” to solve that differential equation shown in part b, rather than spoiling them with the particular solution and letting them do the dull “verify by substitution”. Of course kids should be informed to multiply (1+t) on both sides of the DE first and use any available technologies to antidifferentiate RHS.
                (from this line I can see Dr. Marty is holding a hammer, ready to smash my CP400, TI Nspire and my laptop with Mathematica LOL)

                Too many good opportunities in the past exams had just slipped through their fingers. A long long sigh. Teeth grinding.

                As one of you suggested. The first domino is down, and here comes the rest.

                As of Methods?
                No more Tas Jones or Vic Jones please.
                Let’s just hope something such as:

                Microchip current flow, as function of time, with some differentiation and integration involved.

                Digging golds below the ground, students are required to excavate certain amount of soil and stone by integration.

                Product of sinusoidal and exponential functions to “model” damping spring in the neighborhood of its equilibrium position.

                Logarithmic (Ritcher Scale) will be lovely to see. Fitts Law is fine, with extra seasoning on varying parameters which makes it more tasty. Calculus is more than welcomed in this scenario.

                Snell’s Law with optimized traveling time?
                Not sure it would be appropriate to have many physics related content in methods…but ringtone signal is technically physics related, in spite of its infinite number of acceptable solution sets! Transformations are not bad, but there is no point putting too much focus on that!

                An Olympic player who wants to see how likely he/she could win $10000 bonus, or, alternatively,
                a fish man who wants to figure out his profit or loss through his rod sales.

                Not sure if a question would be embedding normal distribution and calculus together? Only seen that specific type once, in 1997 BOS paper.

                Need to mention a grey area – absolute value functions. If one absolute value function was written in the form of hybrid functions, then a lot of good questions can be asked, involving transformations, composite, domain and range problem!

                Big credit to Red Five, Mr SRK and Mr JF.
                Your interactions and great discussions triggered a lot of imaginary sparks in my head. Now I have figured out more directions to work on for this year!

                Let’s hope for more decent questions in this December, which makes the XMAS celebration more meaningful.

                1. Absolute value functions seem to be a no-go area in Methods although they seem to be an essential part of Specialist. The implications for this when anti-differentiating certain functions are… problematic (trying to be restrained)

                  1. Hello Red Five,

                    You are correct, abs value function is absolutely a no-go area in methods.

                    What I meant in my original post was many old models/functions in MME (particularly 2006-2015 questions) could potentially be disguised under hybrid function forms and then expanded into a multiple parts question, including discussions on cusps(sharp points) and differentiability.

                    My main argument is that over-preparing our students is not justifiable in terms of wise use of times and managing cognitive loads amongst our kids, whereas it would be necessary to foresee some “grey areas” with them, just in case these sorts of questions (would) appear. My philosophy is that, the broader they see, the less afraid they would be (assuming a mid-to-high range cohort).

                    Anti-differentiating certain functions involving hybrid functions is certainly problematic. I agree upon that. But I think it would tend to be an expected disposition in a capable spesh kid (of course, provided that the function looks not very ugly). But even such kind of questions still looks better than solving an absolute value equation. If I were to write an exam 1, I’d rather put a 4 – 5 integration question involving absolute value (probably 1 related to abs value), in stead of only assessing absolute value algebra by three valuable marks.

                  2. Here is the stupid thing:

                    The absolute value function was added to Maths Methods back around about 2010. The justification was that it appeared in CAS calculator output for certain integrals (so a justification based on technology rather than mathematics) therefore it is required.

                    Then what happens …. It’s deleted around about 2016, with no justification. And integral of 1/x gets explicitly restricted to x > 0. And it still sneaks in through the back door via hybrid rules.

                    Stupid, stupid, stupid.

                    1. Following your last comment, JF,

                      Brainless, brainless, brainless (lol)

                      Yes, big ambiguity in the muddy water.

                      Textbooks still involve case-wise discussions, such as ax+b>0 or ax+b<0.

                      Let’s wait for the next SD after “2021”.

                      Oh, by the way, your opinion on abolishment of SACs are interesting.

                      I wonder what makes you to arrive at this advice?

                    2. Hi P. N.

                      I’ll ask another question – why keep them??

                      1) They create huge stress for students – for what purpose?

                      2) They create huge amounts of extra work – for what purpose?

                      3) They are fundamentally no different from examination assessment. The raison d’être of SACs (and before them, CATs) was originally to give students who do not perform well in exams a different form of assessment – so what’s the point having them when they’re no different to examination assessment??

                      (CATs did more or less do this, but were plagued with authentication issues, the workload was enormous and ultimately CATs became untenable. SACs were the stupid new broom that was going to sweep clean).

                      4) The audit process is incompetent and corrupt – corrupt has many different meanings, by the way. Fact: I have had auditors ‘fail’ me on the basis of showing the number of marks a question is worth, providing writing lines, having questions that are specifically CAS-free etc. This is what happens when you give a bit of power to pompous incompetent pissants.

                      5) I have not seen any data that shows that the ranking of students derived from SAC results is significantly different from the ranking that would be derived from the examinations – so what’s the point of even generating a ranking?

                      6) They are not needed to generate derived scores. Teachers already collect enough test data during the year (and there’s also the GNAT).

                      I’m not surprised that many schools are encouraging students to do VCE Unscored – no SACs and no exams (and no bull$h!t). No ATAR either, but I think universities are realising that ATARS are not always reliable predictors of success (particularly for students coming from private schools, where I see it as generally inflating such predictions). This is a spanner in the works for the gravy train that profits from VCE fear and stress (of students and teachers). People on this gravy train will do anything they can to keep it rolling along.

                      I could bang on but life is short. I’m sure others can finish the list, if they have the inclination.

                      In conclusion: Give me any argument in support of SACs and I will shoot it down like the clay pigeon that it is.

    2. Thanks, SRK. Losing stats is a whole silver cloud. As for the inequitable treatment, does it matter. Assuming VTAC doesn’t stuff it up (I know, I know), doesn’t scaling take care of this?

      1. I wonder if workload could be a potential source of inequity. Students doing Further will now have a lot more time to spend working on their other subjects. “They already did”. Yes, but now they’ve got the equivalent of about a month less content, and the consequential reduction in exam preparation.

        Perhaps scaling will take care of this because Further students will, on average, do better in their other subjects. (Although, I don’t see the Further cohort as one that’s going to use this extra time for academic purposes…)

    3. I have noticed that probability and statistics is one area in which examination questions are often not well-worded. My theory is that probability and statistics are not well understood by many teachers and examiners. Many mathematics graduates have had no training in these areas. (Is statistics boring? Vinculum, 52(4) (2015), 4.)

        1. I agree, Marty. But that doesn’t change anything. Terry’s theory is almost certainly a fact

          (in my opinion, based on what I’ve seen when vetting trial exams, what I see on VCAA exams, small talk with teachers I meet, and Terry’s accurate observation about graduates)

          Terry’s theory may well explain in part why the subjects are gvdlfe.

          As I’ve said before, statistics in Specialist Maths could have been Awesome (and in Methods, awesome) had it been mathematical statistics (cdf’s, moment generating functions etc.) rather than pissant inferential statistics. But it got hijacked by assholes with their own self-serving agendas.

          1. There’s no “almost” about it: Terry is certainly correct. And yes, I know the stats could have, in an ideal world, been excellent, as it is in IB.

            But Terry’s truth is distracting from a larger and way more important truth, that the whole VCE (and AC) curriculum makes no fucking sense. For me it’s like AMSI whining about unqualified teachers. (Terry is not whining.) The fact that AMSI is (sort of) correct doesn’t mean that that their campaign doesn’t distract from way more important issues and thus make things worse.

          2. From my point of view, inferential statistics is part of mathematical statistics. The problem in school statistics, is that inferential statistics is not well taught. One of the classic examples in my view is the discussion of correlation. I read about low correlation, medium correlation and strong correlation (or something like that) and the corresponding range of values for each category. I have no idea of the justification for this terminology; yet students are expected to memorise this.

            What would r=1.0 indicate? Wow! Perfect correlation. Now I’ll tell you the data: (1,2), (3,4).

            You might say that the number of data points is too small. Yet, there is no mention in the text books about the role of the sample size in this context.

  3. Thanks to everyone commenting here. I’ve been too busy to participate, or or even give the comments a proper read. I will be trying to set up a post on SACs sometime today. People may wish to (and I may request they) repost comments there.

  4. JF – regarding SACs, possibly the only good thing is that they are not CATs.

    Maybe we could adopt a university style approach here (please, not the sarcasm from this point on…) and give group assignments. Give everyone the same mark and let the exam do the rest.

  5. I really want to see the scaling reports when this is all over… that would be an interesting statistical study. You can’t surely get more of an outlier than 2020…?

    1. RF, you are such a naive babe in the woods!

      The scaling report will be no different to what it is every other year.

      And VCAA will give itself a slap on the back that the actions it took “clearly maintained the integrity of the scaling process and no disadvantage to any student was evident” (or some other similar mealy-mouthed statement).

      (Because we all know that the effect of a process on an individual gets smoothed out by the effect on the population and so the individual is unimportant).

      1. JF, you are a true believer and for that I salute you. I still think there might be the odd clue which a forensic statistician could pick up…

        Of course, nothing will happen. We can dream though…

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.