# The New VCAA Study Design is Up

Well, sort of. The 2023-2027 SD is here (Word, Idiots) and is linked on this page. Thanks to Red Five, whose detective skills are a hell of a lot stronger than VCAA’s announcing skills.

### UPDATE (03/04/23)

VCAA has added sample exam questions for Foundation Mathematics and General Mathematics. I won’t be looking at these unless something super-crazy is flagged.

FOUNDATION MATHEMATICS (subject page and exam page)

Sample Exam

Formula Sheet

GENERAL MATHEMATICS (subject page and exam page)

Sample Exam 1 Questions

Sample Exam 2 Questions

## UPDATE (30/01/23)

VCAA has updated their subject pages and exam pages with sample exam questions and various resources. Ignoring junk such as “employability skills”, here are the new materials:

MATHEMATICAL METHODS (subject page and exam page)

Sample Exam 1 Questions (09/04/23 Quick comments below.)

Sample Exam 2 Questions (09/04/23 Quick comments below.)

Formula Sheet (02/02/23)

Webinars (and see this WitCH). (31/01/24 Link updated.)

SPECIALIST MATHEMATICS (subject page and exam page)

Sample Exam 1 Questions (16/02/23 Critique below.)

Sample Exam 2 Questions (01/03/23 Critique below.)

Formula Sheet (02/02/23)

Webinars (and see this WitCH and this WitCH and this WitCH).

Sample Learning Activities (scroll down)

(07/10/23: Some sample questions have been added.)

Sample Assessment Tasks (scroll down a long, long way)

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## UPDATE (09/04/23): Methods Exam Sample Questions

We only took a quick look at the Methods sample questions, as they do not seem disastrous in the manner of the Specialist questions. So, just two quick comments. First, the writing is consistently execrable: every literary offence is there, in spades. Secondly, the questions on pseudocode are the ugliest, stupidest, most pointless Godforsaken bullshit I’ve ever seen. The people who proposed this madness, the people who signed off on it, everybody even remotely involved, should hang their tiny little brainless heads in shame.

## UPDATE (16/02/23): Specialist Exam 1 Sample Questions

It’s a bit of a mess to update all this, since the materials overlap, our various posts overlap, and the flaws in the questions can be distinct from the flaws in the presented, webinar solutions. But we’ll do what we can, beginning with the Specialist Exam 1 Sample questions.

Our comments here will tend to be brief. As appropriate, we’ll handball to the general webinar posts, here and here, and the specific Witches, here and here and here and here. See also, in general, the guide to VCAA’s lesser literary offenses.

Q1. A routine induction question, fine except for VCAA’s typically off-tune wording. See the update to this WitCH for comments on the (very badly presented) webinar proof.

Q2. A triumph of awfulness. See here, and the comments below.

Q3. An ok induction proof question. The main thing the question proves is that Specialist Mathematics really really sucks. As noted here, there are much better approaches to the question, which should be standard in such a subject.

Q4. A thoroughly idiotic, and stupidly worded, proof by contradiction question. See here and here.

Q5. A better, but not good, proof by contradiction question. See here.

The old Q6. We’ll bet London to a brick that the original draft contained a question requiring students to prove loge5 is irrational. See here.

The new Q6. A nasty and flawed question: rotated curves do not form solids. See here.

Q7. The same as the previous question, but worse: fatally ambiguous. See here.

Q8. A very badly worded but intrinsically fine surfaces of revolution question, notably lacking the flaws of the previous two questions. This is good, but may indicate a fundamental misunderstanding by VCAA: see here.

Q9. Exact same remarks as for the previous question.

Q10A mess, with errors. See here and the comments here.

Q11. A standard and fine integration by parts question.

Q12. A standard planes question, with poor language: students are finding an equation of the plane, not the equation of the plane; the vectors don’t lie in the plane, they are parallel to the plane; it is a little weird to talk about a plane passing through points rather than containing them.

Q13. Another standard planes and lines question, again fine, again with clumsy language: “given by” is clumsy, and “with equation” is to be preferred. A slight difference is that Q12 asks for “the Cartesian equation”, and Q13(a) simply asks for “the equation”. One would normally assume that’s fine, but the formula sheet also includes the formula for a “vector equation of a plane” (meaning a parametrised equation, and contradicting the webinar‘s use of the phrase).

Q14. Same comment: an ok lines and planes question, with slightly clumsy language.

Q15. Same comment.

Q16. A routine vector motion question. Fine.

Q17. A routine planes question: “Given that the angle … is θ” should be “Let the angle … be θ”.

Q18. A routine vectors question. The form c√d for the answer is not unique. (No one cares, but we’ll keep pointing it out. Because it is wrong.)

Q19. A nice area of parallelogram question: “vertices at” should be “vertices”.

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## UPDATE (01/03/23): Specialist Exam 2 Sample Questions

The questions are here. In general, the questions are badly written but less problematic than the Exam 1 questions, with the exception of MCQ1 and MCQ 2, which have already been hammered, here and here. Other than those, the standout issues/queries are MCQ 7, and the “distance” questions.

MCQ 7 smells new, and we can see no announcement of this stuff, but we can’t be bothered figuring it out.

As for the “distance” questions, are these examinable? (MCQ6, 3(d)(i), 4(a), 4(c), 5(b)(iii), 5(b)(iv).) We could find nothing in the study design (Word, idiots) indicating so, there is no hint of the material on the formula sheet, and the vector webinar contains no such material. Of the textbooks, Cambridge and Jacaranda cover the material (weirdly and poorly), but we could find nothing in Nelson. There are a number of ways to do this distance stuff, some better, some worse and some a matter of taste. VCAA is a box of chocolates.

Also, the standard term in the context of lines and planes is “distance”, not “shortest distance”. Notably, VCAA appears to use different language for the distance from a line/plane to a line/plane, and the distance from a point to a line/plane: the former they refer to as “shortest distance”, and the latter as “distance”. That’s a pointless and pretty nutty distinction to make.

MCQ1. Straight-out wrong: the statement is not an implication and thus has no contrapositive. See here.

MCQ2. Obscene, and wrong. They fail to follow their own conventions. See here.

MCQ3. Very badly worded, but the question is fine.

MCQ4. “the equation of the line” should be “an equation for the line”, but the question is fine.

MCQ5. “an equation”, not “the equation”, but the question is fine.

MCQ6. The question, asking for the “shortest distance” between two parallel planes, is intrinsically fine, as long as it is examinable.

MCQ7. It’s stats crap. We don’t do stats crap. (This smells like undeclared New Stats Crap, rather than Old Stats Crap, but we don’t do stats crap, new or old.)

Q1. A mostly ok question, but the language is clumsy and absurd: in (a), a set is not the same as an equation; in (b) a set is not the same as a graph; in (c), the region is given by, not “defined by” what follows; in (e), a set contains  two roots, it does not “provide” the roots. Part (d) is nasty, and effectively CAS crap: one requires the arguments of the points where A and B intersect, and it is not easy to find these by hand.

Q2. A tedious and unimaginative but ok logistic equation question.

Q3. An ok planes question. The plane is given by the equations, not “described by”. For (d), one asks again whether “shortest distance” is in the curriculum. Part (d)(ii) is not difficult if looked at correctly, but coming out of nowhere it is too tricky.

Q4. The questions are intrinsically fine. For (a) and (c), once again, the question is whether “shortest distance” is in the curriculum. The wording for (b) is insanely bad, one of the stupidest sentences of all time. The wording for (c) is better, only reaching the level of “really bad”.

Q5. The questions are ok. The lack of punctuation in (a) is really weird. In (a)(ii) and (b), it is a Cartesian equation, not “the Cartesian equation”, ditto (b)(ii) for “the vector equation”. Yet again, for (b)(iii) and (b)(iv), one has to ask whether “distance” is examinable.

Q6. A question involving a sparrow that periodically whacks into the ground without slowing down. Thank God we have VCAA to teach us about the real world. Other than that, the question is appallingly worded and boring, but is ok.

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## 131 Replies to “The New VCAA Study Design is Up”

1. Red Five says:

The following dot points from Methods 3&4 have me quite concerned:

· specify the similarities and differences between formal mathematical expressions and their representation by technology, in particular, equivalent forms of symbolic expressions

· select an appropriate functionality of technology in a variety of mathematical contexts and provide a rationale for these selections

· design and implement simulations and algorithms using appropriate functionalities of technology

· apply suitable constraints and conditions, as applicable, to carry out required computations

· relate the results from a particular technology application to the nature of a particular mathematical task (investigative, modelling, or problem-solving) and verify these results

· specify the process used to develop a solution to a problem using technology and communicate the key stages of mathematical reasoning (formulation, solution, interpretation) used in this process

Mostly because I don’t think they are clear at all and so I have no idea what the exam could look like (and exams have been bad enough recently…)

I also have many, many concerns about Specialist but that is going to take me a few days to process (and a few beverages…) although, integration by parts making the final cut is a nice touch.

1. marty says:

That’s cute: strengthening calculus while eliminating one of the best sources of natural and beautiful applications. VCAA loves them their irony.

1. Red Five says:

I used to teach integration by parts anyway – maybe a lot of teachers did.

So that may be a bit non-consequential.

I need some time to digest the proof and logic vagueness in the Specialist dot points a bit. My first instinct is that 1&2 seems to have a lot more (Boolean, Logic Gates, Circuits) than 3&4 which raises quite a few questions, but mostly WILL THEY EXAMINE IT?

2. Charlie says:

All of these dot points were already in the old study design.

Also, I am a student studying Methods 1/2 and doing Methods 3/4 next year, I was wondering if anybody had any resources for pseudocode – since that is getting introduced to Methods 3/4.

1. Red Five says:

I will disagree with all these dot points being in the old study design. Pseudocode was not in the old (technically, the current) study design for Mathematics.

If you mean the draft study design, then yes, but even then there have been significant changes; thankfully most of them involve some level of “toning down” (opinion, not fact).

“Specify the process” is a rather odd phrasing… seems to be more akin to Algorithmics than Mathematics, but again… what the study design says and what the exams actually contain can be quite different (anyone remember a 2016 draft saying “normals not required” and then seeing the 2016 paper 2 exam will know at least one example of this…)

1. John (No) Friend (of VCAA) says:

Maths Methods 3/4: Some observations.

1) I don’t see any pseudo-code bullshit.

2) The dot points that RF mentioned are in Outcome 3 – Bullshit *ahem* I mean ‘Use of Technology’. Nothing new, just different wording. I think there’s a subtle implied emphasises on programming in the ‘unique’ CAS calculator language. For those born post-2000 AD programming means coding. It would make more sense if a proper CAS such as Mathematica, Matlab or Maple was being used (maybe the person(s) who imposed their will on the rest of the committee (*) is unaware that the great Mathematica experiment was a disaster and VCAA pulled the plug).

3) There was a missed opportunity for VCAA to be honest and re-name the subject to reflect what it actually is – Computational Mathematical Methods. VCAA is not interested in pure mathematics – time for it to be honest and declare this.

4) Some good news – transformations using matrices is gone. That is one piece of gratuitous stand-alone shit I won’t miss.

5) I see that the old fog notation has made a come-back. Not sure why …?

6) Area of Study 4 now includes ‘Data Analysis’ in its title. This shows what VCAA truly thinks mathematics is.

7) The new Stupid Design is still opaque and lacking clarity and detail.

* There’s an interesting story here. I have it from a primary – and pissed off – source that some members of the committee were mere tokens. Representational boxes to be ticked. That there were one or two loud voices that imposed their decisions.

1. marty says:

Thanks, John. I have also heard, from an impeccable source, that members of the committees were treated as “mere tokens”.

Anybody who associates with the VCAA, as a committee member or as an exam writer or as an assessor or as a SAC thug, is an accomplice and/or a stooge. And, yes, if you think this comment is referring to you, you are almost certainly correct.

1. John (No) Friend (of VCAA) says:

*Ahem* A clarification for those who might get confused:
Marty’s comment applies to any reader who thinks the comment might apply to them …. (The “you” is not me!).

1. marty says:

Come on, John. Everybody knows you’re VCAA’s patsy. Just come clean.

1. John (No) Friend (of VCAA) says:

*Sigh* You got me. I admit it. I’m their mole. I’m a 5th columnist, a quisling. Hiding in plain sight. Collecting intel on this rotten anti-VCAA cell and reporting back to my VCAA handler.

OK, I need a distraction to fool you all and maintain my cover as a VCAA-hater …

I find it interesting that the publication of the Mathematics Stupid Design has not been mentioned in any of the School Notices …

BUT … I did see that the date when schools get told if a Unit 3 subject is being audited has been pushed back to April 26 (NOTICE 25 2022). There are so many reasons why this is idiotic and cruel (key VCAA attributes).

On the plus side, schools now have time to write not one but TWO SACs – the SAC given to VCAA and …

2. Simon says:

Hi John,

(1) All of the pseudocode references are now gone – not just methods!

(2&3) The course is not rigorous enough to be a Computational Mathematical Methods. The use of CAS in Methods is mostly just handholding for algebra and calculus with the VCAA hoping for deeper thinking and exploration. Remove that handholding and the old graphing calculators still used elsewhere in the world would suffice for the graphs and stats in VCE.
Using a proper CAS (one of the M’s listed above) would *maybe* improve things, but I’d still feel bad about the expensive and closed nature of them. Why was something like Sympy or Sage or Maxima not on the approved list?
DLL always promised data on the Mathematica trial – but it never appeared (afaik)

(4) The vestigial matrices in methods was always embarrassing – only one more year of teaching it!

(5) The f∘g notation was always in methods, just optional in the old study design. Talking about composite functions is clunky without it. You don’t like the notation?

(6) The corresponding area of study in all of the VCE maths units is now “Data analysis, probability and statistics” even in General maths where they do no probability (it used to be just “data anlysis”). I don’t think it implies much…

(7) YES. As you and RF have pointed out – how and to what depth some of the content is to be assessed is not clear. But I’m glad at least the dot points are now fixed – makes teaching the new study design for spec 1 & 2 a bit easier.

1. John (No) Friend (of VCAA) says:

Hi Simon.

1) Maybe even the stand-over men knew they couldn’t bludgeon that one through.

2) Don’t get me started on the integrity and honesty of former Maths Manglers. I get into enough trouble from Marty already.

3) The course is not rigorous enough to be a mathematics course, either. But it’s not about rigour, it’s about honesty and philosophical intent. The course is more honestly called Computational Mathematical Methods than Mathematical Methods.

4) I wonder if the idiot that bullied it through on the current Stupid Design will ever confess.

5) I think it’s fine. I don’t know why it ever got dropped. And I don’t know why it’s come back.

6) ‘Data Analysis’ is a complete misnomer when applied to the content of Area of Study 4 of Methods and Specialist.

7) Another missed opportunity. Deliberate, I think. I honestly think the VCAA wants the Stupid Design to lack clarity. Then VCAA has the flexibility to argue for any old bullshit it wants and defend its errors and those of its goon squad. Clarity means accountability.

1. Red Five says:

Pseudocode still exists in a few dot points unfortunately in Specialist. Not as much as it did, but enough to make me a bit unsteady.

I’m relieved that Logic and Circuits (two totally separate ideas I reckon, but…) are only to be found in Units 1&2, although the line about any Unit 1&2 being assessable in Units 3&4 casts a LONG shadow…

I think my main concern with this study design is that it is even more “bitsy” than the previous and so teaching the course with any sense of flow, with ideas knitting together just got a lot harder!

1. John (No) Friend (of VCAA) says:

Yeah, the only knitting to be seen is what the irrelevant tokens on the committee may as well have been doing. The whole pseudo-code is bullshit. Any appearance on an exam will be an outright declaration by VCAA that Specialist Mathematics is not a mathematics subject, it’s simply another algorithmics subject in a very flimsy disguise.

On the topic of Specialist, I have no idea why the Logistic Equation got its own special dot point. There’s a dot point for “formulation of differential equations from contexts in …” and a dot point that includes seperable DE’s. So why does the logistic get or need an explicit dot point? One of the stand-over men’s little pets …? Trying to be COVID-relevant?

And on the topic of flow, did you notice how the dot points in each Area of Study don’t. Look at the five dot points under Logic and Proof. Would anyone with a half a clue sequence things in that way. The natural order (numbering the dot points 1 to 5 in their current order) is surely 2, 4, 1, 3, 5.

There’s much more content to get through, it really will be a desperate sprint. Of course, idiot stand-over men don’t have to teach this subject. I know a man who has campaigned very hard for a number of years for “vector cross product, normal to a plane and vector, parametric and cartesian equations of a plane.” For what purpose or reason, I don’t know.

1. Red Five says:

I’m quite used to the dot points not flowing, or being oddly… dotted. Some things get their own dot point, some dot points contain multiple ideas.

What gets annoying is certain “key ideas” either rarely (never?) being assessed or things that are decidedly NOT listed being examined.

Such experiences render study designs quite redundant.

2. Simon says:

Yeah, I just noticed that – I think I had too many versions of the study design open…

And yes, I agree with your other two concerns. But I have enjoyed teaching more proof to the year 11s!

2. Simon says:

Fair enough regards all of the points. Data analysis is mostly a misnomer for further maths too – maybe the data transformations they use can qualify, but the rest is just statistics.

3. Terry Mills says:

The phrase “data analysis” is used in many different ways. It used to mean applying statistical methods to analyse data. In universities in 2022, it is a broader term that includes many ideas from computer science. In my experience in industry it might mean using Excel.

1. marty says:

So, kinda like “writing” means using Word, and “doing mathematics” means using a calculator.

1. John (No) Friend (of VCAA) says:

“Data analysis” sounds impressive and 21st century but has so many different meanings that the phrase itself is totally meaningless without clarification.

When it comes to impressive sounding phrases and grandiose statements that are totally meaningless, VCAA is king. (And ACARA is the queen)

1. marty says:

What does that make ACARA? God?

2. John (No) Friend (of VCAA) says:

I love how VCAA says at that page:

“In 2022, schools must ensure they use the VCE Mathematics Study Design 2016-2022.”

You must use the 2022 Stupid Design, except when you must not use it (for example, when designing your Unit 1/2 courses for 2022)

1. SRK says:

So what does this mean for, eg. transformations with matrices in Methods Units 1&2?

Should we teach it because it is in the current study design? Or ignore it because it’s irrelevant to Methods Units 3&4 in 2023?

1. Alex ~ Vic Maths Notes says:

In the advice for units 1&2 it says you can omit using matrices for transformations.

1. John (No) Friend (of VCAA) says:

Indeed. And VCAA’s blunt implement advice is now an even more glorious example of its total stupidity!! Behold ….

The Blunt Implement advice states that
“first principles differentiation of polynomial functions”
can be omitted.

“the limit definition of the derivative of a function

which is a very good thing (*) but shows that the Blunt Implement advice is untrustworthy (*). To paraphrase a popular advertising catchphrase: Ah McVCAA, you’ve done it again!” Idiots.

“first principles approach to differentiation of , , and simple polynomial functions”
but the new one does not. So maybe it’s not the good thing it initially appears to be. It’s just a formula without any requirement for application … So maybe the new Stupid Design doesn’t contradict the Blunt Implement advice. Which makes VCAA even bigger idiots in my book. And I think it confirms my theory that differentiation from first principles was missing in the Daft Stupid Design because VCAA decided the algebra was much too difficult for students to handle.

1. Alex ~ Vic Maths Notes says:

Unfortunately, in my reading of the new SD, despite them adding back the limit definitions properly, they still left out first principles explicitly. I suspect it’s also related to the expansion of (x+a)^n being removed which is somewhat necessary.

Given that they couldn’t even correctly match an area of study with it’s outcome 1 correctly (General U1 AOS3&4), the bar is pretty low (not to mention other errors like missing brackets in specialist integration, inconsistent formatting of notation like vectors, dot points that were added but are actually the end of the previous one like SM U2 sampling distributions the (sample mean) is part of the previous dot point).

Ah the things you find when you reformat the document so you can actually read and compare it easier.

2. Worm says:

No matrices for students doing unit 1/2 this year. Firsthand experience

1. John (No) Friend (of VCAA) says:

The new Study Design is officially implemented in 2023 but was unofficially officially implemented in 2022 at the Units 1/2 level by VCAA because VCAA is too pig-headed and wilfully stubborn to admit that implementing Units 1/2 in the same year (2023) as Units 3/4 is really dumb. The unofficial official implementation advice given by VCAA is attached.

Note that matrices are prescribed in Specialist Maths Units 1/2 in 2022 to prepare students for Specialist 3/4 in 2023. In fact, Specialist Maths Units 1/2 is unofficially an officially prescribed course in 2022 (despite what the 2022 Study Design says).

So much bullshit and confusion created by pure pig-headedness and wilful, derelict stubbornness.

1. Anonymous says:

Hi John,

I can’t find the release of that information/document anywhere – VCAA bulletins etc. When & where was it communicated??

1. John (No) Friend (of VCAA) says:

I downloaded it in the last week of December 2021. Two of VCAA’s (many) nasty habits are:
1) Prematurely removing important information, and
2) Making important information hard to find (certainly, publishing such information in a less than prominent way).

Your failure to find it will probably be due to one of the above. Anyway, it’s been published here so no need to let VCAA waste your time (something it also has a habit of doing to us all).

1. John (No) Friend (of VCAA) says:

Then again, your failure to find it could be due to a very poor decision to try and navigate the VCAA website rather than doing an internet search … See attached.

See habit 2) above – VCAA’s website is typically user UNfriendly for navigating and finding information. Avoid making the mistake of assuming otherwise.

2. marty says:

Jesus H. Christ. Any school maths subject where you gotta ask about pseudocode is not a maths subject. This is insane.

And, Charlie, sorry. It’s a fair enough question for you to ask, and perhaps one of the readers can help, but I can’t.

3. noah says:

i dont think pseudocode in methods is going to be much of an issue. honestly just dont stress about it at the moment at all, wait for the textbook to release next year and spend your 2 week holidays getting yourself well versed, the new methods stuff will be fairly easy in comparison to calc and trig functions. however if you’re taking spesh math then u should be scared lol. make sure start of next year u get on it right away if ur doing spesh.

im also doing methods 3/4 next yr, (and spesh 3/4) so i feel you, its annoying how broad vcaa can be.

1. marty says:

Thanks, noah. There are two quite separate questions: (1) How easily will the students be able to manage the new material/emphasis; (2) What is maths educational value/devalue of the new material/emphasis? Naturally enough, your concern, or at least main concern, is (1). I’m not a good judge of that, although VCE maths seems so ritualistic, I don’t see that any change can have much effect. On (2), there is no question that VCAA has decided to get further away from mathematics and further into ritual.

1. John Friend says:

Noah is correct in some ways. Teachers stress because they know it’s new stuff (for them) and there is no clarity etc.

On the other hand, from a student perspective everything is new (including the ‘old’ stuff). They don’t know that some stuff is newer than other stuff. If they’re worrying, they’re worrying about all the stuff!

3. marty says:

“using appropriate functionalities of technology”. What kind of a twat comes up with such a line?

1. Allan says:

“appropriate functionalities of technology” just means using your CAS correctly. theres nothing inherently wrong with that statement.

1. marty says:

There’s everything inherently wrong with that phrase.

2. John (No) Friend (of VCAA) says:

1. marty says:

I know. Remember that thing about rhetoric on this site?

2. Sir Humphrey says:

I hope we’re not place in the position where we look back fondly on the 2016-22 Study Design in comparison to the new one.
What Red Five has highlighted leads me to think that, maybe, just maybe, that might end up being the case. I’m also concerned.

1. Red Five says:

For the record, I HATE BEING CORRECT when it comes to VCAA.

1. John (No) Friend (of VCAA) says:

RF, it’s so easy to be correct when it comes to VCAA. Unfortunately.

3. Charlie says:

Hey all,

I don’t know if this is a place to ask questions (please let me know if it is not).

I am a student studying Mathematical Methods 3/4 next year, I am currently studying Methods 1/2.
I just was wondering for Pseudocode, how do you guys think that will be assessed in examinations and are there any resources that can be used to learn it?

Also, I noticed that functional relations is gone in the methods study design – does this mean questions like the last MCQ in 2020 exam 2 paper will no longer make an appearance in exams? – I don’t know if its safe to assume so since the study design seems to be really vague, for example they included derivatives of inverse functions in one of their exams which was never actually explicitely in the methods study design (although can be derived from the content learnt within it).

Charlie.

1. marty says:

Hi, Charlie. From my point of view, anybody can ask anything. (Yes, the antibiotics did get rid of it, and thanks for asking.) In any case, your questions seem square in the middle of everyone’s puzzling about what VCAA has done, and what VCAA will expect. So, I expect some pretty knowledgable answers will be forthcoming.

Regarding functional equations, that’s interesting if they’ve disappeared from the study design. One would presume that means they’re no longer examinable, but others here will have a better guess.

Regarding the derivative of inverses, this was definitely not in the previous study design (even if, as you note, the technique is used in (an invalid manner) to get the inverse trig and logarithm derivatives.) Nonetheless, and as you note, such questions have appeared, in 2018 and 2019: I hammered that here, and see also here.

Would VCAA be stupid enough to examine derivatives of inverses again? That would be pretty damn stupid. So, let’s say it’s a 50-50 bet.

1. Red Five says:

Greetings Charlie – good luck in advance with studying across the great switch over of study designs, hope it all goes well…

I have an idea of what pseudocode means, but what really matters (and why I’m not rushing out to write class notes just yet) is what the VCAA examiners think it means.

As JF has pointed out, correctly, there is already confusion about Boolean Logic/Algebra, so there is ample reason to suspect pseudocode will, for 2023 at least, be examined quite gently.

That said… a quick internet search for “pseudocode” provides a plethora of (mostly US, UK) tertiary-level study notes which I plan to use as background reading in the near future.

1. wst says:

They do pseudocode in VCE Software Development, and there is one examiners’ report here where they outline students’ “common errors”: https://vcaa.vic.edu.au/assessment/vce-assessment/past-examinations/Pages/AppliedComputing-SoftwareDevelopment.aspx
I don’t know if it would help much – I imagine VCAA would have things one way in maths and another way in another subject anyway.

I’ve heard this website is used by some computing teachers as well: http://passyworldofict.com/programming/programming03a/ The slides down the bottom have conventions for pseudocode. But I don’t know how conventional they are, and whether the same rules would apply in maths. But they are local, so I just thought I’d share that.

1. Simon says:

Unlike most other curriculum bodies (NESA, IB, GCSE/A-levels, AP,…) the pseudocode used in the VCE Software Development has never had a clear standards on keywords or syntax. The VCE SD exams often have issues with their pseudocode…

For someone with experience programming (stronger VCE students), picking up pseudocode is fairly easy. But less experienced programmers – including maths students – can struggle. Though tracing code by hand does help students build their internal model of how a computer runs code.

Here are my notes on pseudocode in the VCE and pseudocode in the IGCSE

To be honest, I can’t see myself teaching any pseudocode in specialist unless we get clear direction about it being examined. Algorithms, such as the Euclidean algorithm, Bisection, Newton’s, etc are candidates for structured English descriptions of the algorithm…

1. John (No) Friend (of VCAA) says:

Thanks, Simon. Great post. Your first paragraph articulates exactly what I attempted to say earlier about Algorithmics. This is exactly the problem with all of VCAA’s Stupid Designs – a total failure to be clear. I think a large part of this problem is either:
1) VCAA does not understand the content it’s trying to enact (very likely with the pseudocode bullshit), or
2) You have someone very smart with no talent to communicate or understand the needs of those less smart. Its an Evans money bet either way, I think.

You can see VCAA’s attempt to be clear in parts of Specialist 3/4, but unfortunately the parts where they tried to do this are exactly the parts where it WASN’T needed! VCAA has no understanding of when and how to be clear.

And I unreservedly agree with your last paragraph sentiments. It will be interesting to see if and how VCAA respond to this.

1. Simon says:

An Evans money bet 🙄

1. John (No) Friend (of VCAA) says:

Well … it’s My call …

2. John (No) Friend (of VCAA) says:

Pseudocode is included in the Stupid Design because it’s a buzz word that VCAA makes it sound smart and relevant to the 21st century. It’s also included because VCAA don’t want ‘old fashioned’ mathematics subjects that focus on *ahem* mathematics. VCAA’s understanding of what is mathematics is very different to a mathematician’s understanding.

Pseudocode doesn’t appear in Methods, so Charlie is safe.
In Specialist I’m assuming it could be examined indirectly via a students ability to write CAS-calculator programs (or Mathematica code) to answer questions whose solution requires a coded algorithm. An understanding of pseudo code is a basis for efficient and effective writing of code. Or more directly, I can – unfortunately – imagine questions asking a student to write pseudocode that finds the first 40 prime numbers.

It will be a cold day in hell before VCAA actually defines what it means by pseudocode and how, or if, it will be assessed. It probably doesn’t even know itself.

If you look at the Stupid Design for Algorithmics, you’ll see statements like:
“specification and uses of the following ADTs:
– list, array, dictionary (associative array)
– stack, queue, priority queue”

Impressive and clear, eh? But it’s not. It’s unclear. Because these words have a number of different meanings. VCAA does not define these words. So it’s a mystery to everyone what VCAA actually means if you drill down to details. You have to join the dots from exam questions when a simple glossary would solve this issue.

But clarity is not VCAA’s strong suit. Secrecy, opaqueness, fogging are VCAA’s tools.

1. Simon says:

Algorithms are also in the Victorian Curriculum mathematics content descriptions.
Level 10: Implement algorithms using data structures in a general-purpose programming language (VCMNA334) [an interesting “elaboration” in this one is “using pointers in algorithms”… just that. no further details.]
Level 10A: Devise and use algorithms and simulations to solve mathematical problems (VCMNA358)

It was only tonight that I realised these are not in the Australian Curriculum. I thought that apart from the capabilities etc, the VC content descriptors were mostly a reorganisation of the AC.

Appropriately, the Digital Technologies VC and AC require structured English and flowchart descriptions of algorithms.

2. Charlie says:

Pseudocode is mentioned in page 103 of the study design (in the methods 3/4 section under key knowledge).

1. John (No) Friend (of VCAA) says:

*Sigh* Yep, there it is:

“key elements of algorithm design, including sequencing, decision-making and repetition, and representations of the ordered steps for an algorithm including through the use of pseudocode”

I have no idea what this chicken vomit means. And I’ll bet neither does VCAA.

Charlie, you sure know how to ruin a guy’s day. But I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. It’s VCAA’s responsibility to explain what it means and how it will be assessed.

1. Charlie says:

Hey John, (apologies haha)

Do you think the new study design will affect scaling? And if you were a student would you prefer to do Methods under this study design or the previous?

1. John (No) Friend (of VCAA) says:

I don’t think it will affect scaling.

As for which piece of shit is better …. *Ahem* I mean which Stupid Design is better for Maths Methods …
On balance, I think the new Stupid Design is better than the old one for Maths Methods 3/4 (but NOT for Specialist 3/4). Why?

1) The moronic ‘transformations using matrices’ (when matrices themselves are not even on the course) has been deleted. This is a very big plus.

2) The moronic stand-alone functional equations stuff has been deleted.

But depending on what VCAA says about
“key elements of algorithm design, including sequencing, decision-making and repetition, and representations of the ordered steps for an algorithm including through the use of pseudocode”
I might change my mind.
Which choice of death do you prefer? Eaten alive by a tiger or starvation. Either choice is pretty crap.

4. Alex ~ Vic Maths Notes says:

I collated what differences I found between the draft and the new version on my twitter @vmn_alex

Glad they made the recurrence relation notation consistent throughout General now (all u_0) and removed matrices from Methods.

If you need a laugh, check General unit 1 AOS3 and 4 and the corresponding Outcome 1 section. Someone clearly wasn’t paying enough attention when they put the sequences back together and moved Matrices.

5. Alex ~ Vic Maths Notes says:

Can anyone clarify what VCAA means by “solution of first order linear recurrence relations of the form t_(n+1)=at_n+b, a≠0, with constant coefficients and their application to financial problems and population modelling.” in unit 1 specialist or is it as nonsense as I think it is?

1. Red Five says:

Look at any Further Mathematics textbook from 2000 to 2005ish (perhaps other years as well), specifically Module 1.

A lot of this new Specialist content seems eerily like old (or current) Further content, now with added proof (perhaps).

1. Alex ~ Vic Maths Notes says:

Yeah, I know the application questions of the recurrence relations from Further (before they decided to focus purely on finance), was more confused on the “solution” part as (from my understanding) a recurrence relation by itself doesn’t have a single solution but John pointed out the nth term rule as a solution.

Seems like VCAA is trying to salvage some of the old General content that Specialist used to borrow from.

1. Terry Mills says:

IMHO, the emphasis on finance in studying recurrence relations in Further Mathematics is not a bad idea. So many different financial models can be expressed this way. Students can see that one mathematical model represents many different financial situations.

The teacher can mention other contexts along the way to show that the idea has applications beyond finance.

1. marty says:

The issue with your opinion is not that it is humble, but that it is wrong. The emphasis on finance is a very bad idea.

2. Alex ~ Vic Maths Notes says:

I’ve seen the opposite impact though, schools focus almost purely on the financial models in units 1&2 to the exclusion of all else despite the SD saying to look at multiple contexts.

Also, the financial models in General don’t work well as an example to work from if these students were to later consider the series.

2. John (No) Friend (of VCAA) says:

Hi Alex.

It’s reasonable to expect nonsense from VCAA, but in this isolated case it’s not quite the nonsense you might expect (but it comes close).

I would imagine that VCAA wants students to solve recurrence relations of the form

‘by hand’ and using CAS technology in the context of financial problems and population modelling.

Using CAS technology: Trivial and therefore very VCAA-esque. VCAA’s focus is technology, not mathematics.

‘By hand’ 1: Use a formula with no understanding of where the formula comes from. Which is trivial and pointless and therefore very VCAA-esque.

‘By hand’ 2: The standard approach is to re-write it as .
Then you solve the homogenous recurrence relation by assuming a solution of the form where is an arbitrary constant:

.

Then you look for a particular solution to of the form where is a constant (the method of undetermined coefficients):

.

Then which is the formula students will probably just be expected to memorise. The value of is calculated from any given initial condition, that is, from whatever.

The difficulty most students will have is constructing an appropriate recurrence relation for the given context, the actual mathematics itself will be trivialised (which is just the way VCAA likes it).

1. Alex ~ Vic Maths Notes says:

So, the solution is finding the rule for the nth term given the recurrence relation? They could have just said that instead of being a tad cryptic🙄. I’ll be looking into that method more, thanks John.

1. John (No) Friend (of VCAA) says:

The method generalises to higher order recurrence relations with constant coefficients (and is analogous to solving differential equations with constant coefficients).

6. Terry Mills says:

I noted that in the examination of Foundation Mathematics, “student access to a scientific calculator will be assumed” (p. 82). This suggests to me that CAS calculators would be not allowed, but the Study Design does not make this clear.

1. Alex ~ Vic Maths Notes says:

Foundation used to have the same line as the other subjects for that in the draft and has been changed to scientific, so I would presume scientific only. How powerful a scientific calculator they’ll allow will be another story, but I would presume the same as what they are allowed in some of the sciences.

1. Terry Mills says:

Excel would be a suitable calculator of Foundation Mathematics. I have found that many VCE students have little idea about using Excel. Foundation Mathematics would provide a context for students to improve their skills in using this ubiquitous software.

1. Red Five says:

Perhaps SACs will be written with this in mind, but given the circus that was Methods CBE, I can’t see Excel being permitted in a VCAA exam for now.

But who really knows.

Excel is not the only skill to suffer, of course. You would not, but others may be surprised how even word-processing skills are quite lacking in the era of “computing” being taken to mean “coding”. Although, I also notice English teachers not being blamed for this…

1. Terry Mills says:

“We won’t put Excel in the course because we can’t examine it” sounds like the tail wagging the dog.

1. John (No) Friend (of VCAA) says:

Terry, I don’t think that’s what RF is saying.

But you raise an interesting point: Is something that can’t be examined ‘worth’ including in a syllabus …?
(I suppose it depends on your definition of ‘worth’).

Personally, I don’t see how letting students use Excel is any different to letting them use Mathematica.

1. Terry Mills says:

The difference is that Excel is widely available on nearly all computers in nearly every environment. Given the general philosophy behind Foundation Mathematics, I thought that Excel would be ideal for that subject. If the examining authorities cannot figure out how to assess students on Excel, they could ask Microsoft for advice.

PS I was not intending to mis-represent the views of RF. I sincerely apologise if my post gave that impression.

1. John (No) Friend (of VCAA) says:

Terry, I think you have misunderstood this time …

“Personally, I don’t see how letting students use Excel is any different to letting them use Mathematica.”

means that since VCAA lets students use Mathematica in the exams, I don’t see how that is any different to letting students use Excel in the exams.

PS – To assess students on Excel, you simply ask some questions that require Excel to be used. It’s that simple. I think even VCAA could figure that out.

1. Terry Mills says:

I see your point now. Thanks.

2. Red Five says:

Not because we can’t examine it – more because the attempt at using computers in Methods exams was… not successful.

1. Lancelot says:

Regarding Methods CBE…
I have heard from various sources that “sketching the graph” type questions are now limited to exam 1 *not on exam 2*…, because Mathematica students will do it all on computer.
Honestly I partly understood why…simply put, if the graph sketching questions were on MM2 paper, then it isn’t a fair play with other TI, CASIO and HP CAS users etc (though the other CAS brands are merely countable across the state).
Excel operations and applications *were* nice…good old days when the CAS calculators were not as powerful as today’s machines – i.e.: using spreadsheets and iterative formulae to carry out Newton’s method, bisection method, Euler’s method and so on… I feel that now, not only the students, but also a large amount of maths educators have got to used to shortcut with only shallow understanding to the basic principles…The exams set the trends…so that teachers and students only focus on shortcuts like “euler(dy/dx, x, y, {x_0,x_n},y_0,h)” or similar stuff. Consequently, when the exam questions were set in a different manner, such as providing pronumerals instead of numbers, most students tend to stuff it up, because they haven’t exposed themselves sufficiently to these founding principles or had relevant practice sufficiently…
I quote from a very experienced and retired teacher – she said: “we will do everything, [it] can be everywhere…”

1. marty says:

CAS poisons everything.

2. Terry Mills says:

Above I was suggesting that Excel would be suitable for Foundation Mathematics. Excel is useful in all sorts of situations. It is on almost all computers. Yet I have met students, and professionals, who have little idea of how to use Excel.

In health care I helped a colleague with spreadsheets; she had a Masters degree in health; but she did not know that you could add up numbers on a spreadsheet; she would punch the numbers into her calculator, and then write the answer in the appropriate cell.

I recall the reaction of an academic when the university insisted that staff put their results into a spreadsheet. Having never used a spreadsheet, this lecturer had no idea of how to do this.

Foundation Mathematics would be a good place for assisting students to develop their skills in Excel.

1. John Friend says:

Terry, I agree with your post. I have no issue with spreadsheets being used in Foundation Maths. I have a particular view of what the philosophy behind Foundation Maths should be. I see the use of software such as Excel as essential for the students enrolled in this subject.

3. John (No) Friend (of VCAA) says:

Not withstanding the fact that CAS poisons everything (so Marty, don’t jump on me), Exam 2 is too long and Exam 1 is too short.

VCAA got an albatross/noose around its neck 20 years ago with CAS and doesn’t have the guts to admit it. And who was the idiot who weaponised this albatross with Mathematica?

(As an aside, if you’re going to have a CAS, at least make it authentic – Mathematica, Matlab, Maple … Get rid of the stupid hand-held CAS that is NOT used beyond secondary school).

Exam 2 should be a couple of questions where the CAS is useless unless a student has used his/her mathematical understanding to know what to get the CAS to do. These sorts of questions are very difficult to write, which is why Exam 2 is bloated with triviality.

Take graphing … If you were to examine if a student can draw a graph, there are several types of graphs that should appear. Suddenly 10/40 marks on Exam 1 have been used. Take equation solving … If you were to examine if a student can solve equations (and inequations), there are several types of equations that should be appear. Suddenly another 15/40 marks on Exam 1 have been used. So we’re down to 15 remaining marks and we haven’t started on calculus, vectors etc.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, IF CAS is here to stay (Marty, don’t jump on me) then the 1 hour Exam 1 should be the CAS exam (with NO multiple choice) and the 2 hour Exam 2 should be the CAS-Free exam (with NO multiple choice).

The current examination arrangements make it very clear (as if clarity was ever required) that VCAA sees mathematics as nothing more than button pushing and code writing.

7. Terry Mills says:

Occasionally I ask students to write an essay in mathematics. See attached.

kat2a

8. marty says:

A friendly correspondent has just pointed out to me that VCAA has (finally) posted sample exams for Methods and Specialist. I haven’t yet had a chance to look at them.

1. Alex ~ Vic Maths Notes says:

Your correspondent beat my page tracker that I use 😂. I’ll go through the exams tomorrow, but looking at the formula sheets:

Methods: not many changes, added binomial coefficient and binomial probability formulas (guess they liked them in 2020), Newton’s formula, and trapezium rule

Specialist: added area of a segment and removed surface area of cylinder, added the rearranged variations of the double angle cosine rules, improved the stats section for clarity, added derivatives for cot, sec, csc and related integrals, integration by parts, arc length and surface area formulas (no volume, odd), constant acceleration, cross product, all the equations of lines and planes (don’t like the format they went with though)
(also: I hope the fold in the new A3 layout isn’t in a bad spot)

1. marty says:

Thanks, Alex. I couldn’t be bothered linking the formula sheets. Is there a point?

1. Alex ~ Vic Maths Notes says:

Not sure if there’s much need. It’s easy enough to find anyway.

2. Tungsten says:

Looking at the SM formula sheet, I have just realised that the new study design has arc length for only parametric. Any reason why, considering that the surface area formula for cartesian is also included?

1. Alex ~ Vic Maths Notes says:

Had the same thought when I read the study design originally, by all means it makes no sense. And yet, here we are.

1. marty says:

Thanks, Guys. I still have had no time to look, but I’ve updated the post (again) to include links to the formula sheets.

9. marty says:

I’ve updated the post with a *lot* of new VCAA links to materials and practice for Specialist and (less so for) Methods.

10. annoyed past student says:

Started reading the Spesh exam 2… gave up after MCQ 2. It’s impressive how they manage to bring their love for unnecessary information even into pseudocode… firstly, why the need to declare variables and then set them? Many programming languages will let you declare and set in one line, and pseudocode is supposed to be easier/simpler/plainer/more concise (ha!) than them so I have no idea what the separation adds except to give the student more to read through on the exam… speaking of, why introduce variables that don’t change at all or represent a meaningful quantity? Why ‘declare integer n’ then ‘set n = 3’ then ‘repeat n times’? What’s wrong with ‘repeat 3 times?’ Same with t1 just being 2. If the goal was to teach students to read code, why make it so much longer and less efficient than it needs to be? It took a while to puzzle out what was going on…

My bet is, students won’t be taught to puzzle these things out, there’ll be maybe 3 different algorithms that VCAA tests, students will learn to recognise these 3 or so procedures on sight, some kids will write pre-prepared CAS functions to run them (if i were doing spesh this year, I would write one called ‘recur’ that takes n, t1, t2 as inputs and would answer MCQ2 in 5 seconds, 0 thought required). VCAA will use the same variables every time as well, which is probably why they define n and t1 even though they don’t need to… just makes it even easier to automate the process of answering the question. I’m reminded of a time when i was little where i had a particular book memorised, knew when to turn the pages etc. and would pretend i could read. That’s going to be what spesh students do with algorithms… memorise a few, and VCAA will pretend they’ve taught the kids to read+ write them.

Only recently started reading this blog, found it very validating having been pretty agitated by VCE last year (don’t get me started on the maths SACs). You might appreciate one thing- you won’t have to worry about kids learning coding in Specialist Maths!

1. marty says:

Oh dear. That don’t sound good. I’m Mathologerizing right now, but will look when I can.

2. annoyed past student says:

just checked methods (exam 2)… they’re not even going to… use the same pseudocode conventions… for methods…. and spesh……. …. …??

so yeah, looks like the 3 or so methods algorithms are gonna be trapezium, newton’s method, bisection method. might not be able to write those onto a cas, since i don’t think it’ll let you have a function/equation as input… they’re also trying to discourage CAS-gaming by asking for the value of a variable in the middle of the program?? ah yes really feeling the real world applications of getting halfway through approximating the integral of ln(x) between x=1 and x=3. if only there were an easier way to integrate ln(x)…

like honestly what was the thought process behind approximating the solution to sin x = 0 for 3 < x < 5 (as 3.25, mind you)? i'm quite sure that's not the kind of problem where bisection is needed… who at vcaa looked at the process of solving easily solvable equations and was just like 'hmm what if students did this but with much more work and greatly reduced accuracy. yes that would be ideal'

very funny to learn that the 'higher order process of algorithmic/computational thinking' is like. following a very explicit procedure. being the computer. like they give you the code and you just do what the computer does but slower and worse (or else put it straight into your CAS). ah yes the 21st century skill of being micromanaged. ugh i'm mad

1. Tungsten says:

It certainly looks like pseudocode/algorithms is shaping up to be a disastrous addition to VCE Mathematics in too many ways. By the way, it is be totally possible to make a function for the trapezium, newton’s and bisection methods, and I am aware that these have already been done.

1. annoyed past student says:

Oh yeah… I suppose they must be programmable on CAS, or else how would VCAA expect students to do questions like the Methods MCQ2 under exam conditions? (and surely ‘correctly approximate’, from that question, is an oxymoron). I suppose the process for solving that would be solve the equation on CAS, then try inputting 6, 7, 8 etc as the number of iterations of Newton’s method until you get something accurate to 3 decimal places…

When I first heard about the pseudocode I thought maybe it could be ok, as i had thought there was no way it’d come up in exams and that possibly one of the SACs would involve students designing some kind of algorithm (which, granted, is Not Maths but the current SACs hardly include maths anyway). Won’t be making that mistake again… I’m with you Tungsten, I think disaster is the right word.

Probably there’ll be 2 kinds of students: ones with the algorithms pre-programmed on CAS, and ones who skip all the coding/approximation questions on the exam.

1. marty says:

Thanks, Tungsten and aps. I’ve still had no time to look, but the pseudocode thing sounds bad, and entirely predictable.

2. Simon says:

You can do the Newton’s method questions without programming, it’s just a first order sequence, so set it up and press = the right number of times
f(x):=((x^(3))/(5))-√(x) → Done
df(x):=d/dx (f(x),x) → Done
1.0 → 1.
ans – f(ans)/df(ans) →9.
= →6.0516173434274
= →4.1285780168208
keep going until it converges to the required accuracy.

Of course, many schools will probably provide their classes with implementations of Newton’s and Bisection method (and Trapeziodal appox etc) – making sure that the intermediate data is printed out – to help with exam solving.

11. Anonymous says:

On the sample questions, they’re not actually exams, just exam questions on the new/changed content.

1. marty says:

Ah, thanks for the clarification. I’ll adjust the labels on the post.

12. Alex ~ Vic Maths Notes says:

On the sample questions, they’re not actually full exams, just exam questions on the new/changed content.

Methods:
– Formula sheet has a typo on Newton’s method (should be x_(n+1) not x_(x+1))
– exam 1 trapezium rule seems fine for 3 marks, exam 2 MC set up to be less CAS-able
– exam 1 Newton’s method for one iteration
– exam 2, we now have some examples of what the pseudocode will look like (Trapezium rule, bisection, Newton’s method). Whether they stick to the same code every time or adjust for clarity or give different implementations we will have to see
– exam 2, Newton’s method to x_3
– exam 2 asks for a non-stationary point of inflection (I’m assuming for 1 mark they’re expecting CAS but it’s a cubic so it’s straightforward)
– other bits: general solutions and solutions with a parameter, fog notation, percentiles

Will follow up later on the Specialist questions

1. marty says:

Thanks, Alex. Mr. Anonymous also flagged that there were questions rather than full exams, and I’ve adjust the labels. I’ll think about your comments when I get a chance to look.

1. Alex ~ Vic Maths Notes says:

Think his comment snuck in while I was writing mine up. Now that I’ve gone through the Specialist exams more, I prefer this format of providing questions not exams. We’ve got a lot more examples on the following than we would have otherwise gotten with only a pair of exams (proofs, surface area of revolution, logistic, integration by parts, vector lines and planes, cross product, type I/II error percent, region of complex plane, kinematics in 3 dimensions).

It looks like they won’t be using turned A’s and E’s for ‘for all’ and ‘there exists’.

I agree with annoyed past student that it’s annoying that the pseudocode format is different in the Specialist exam to Methods (lack of bolding, seems to have redundancies) but I think since Specialist 1 has more explicit and broad pseudocode in it than Methods does, it makes a little (not complete) sense to be like that.

As I suspected would be the case, they look like are sticking with ijk format for the vector equations (they mix between ijk and ijk +t(ijk)) and not using column vectors like other states use.

Still need to sit down and work through the questions, but there’s nothing that stands out as being unexpected. Stock standard looking questions.

13. aps says:

A word of advice to VCAA: If it takes you a whole page to ask a multiple choice question, that’s, um, bad. (see Methods exam 2…)
Timed myself reading MCQs 6 and 7 (aloud) out of curiosity. MCQ6 took 1:03, MCQ7 took 1:28 (including multiple choice options). And I wasn’t trying to read slowly. 1 mark per multi choice means students have 1:30 to ANSWER each of these questions. It’s ridiculous.
(And yes, I’m sure you could answer the question without reading it all. But that’s just further evidence that the questions are awful.)

1. marty says:

Sigh. Thanks, aps. I have negative time right now, but I’m forcing myself to go through this stuff enough to update the posts. I’ll try to get to MM2 soon.

14. marty says:

I’ve updated the post with brief comments on the Specialist Exam 2 sample questions. Compared to Exam 1, which is a disaster, the Exam 2 questions appeared generally less problematic, apart from the two questions already hammered (here and here). But, there are a couple puzzles.

I was puzzled by MCQ7, and by the “shortest distance” questions. It is not clear to me that this material is examinable or, if it is, how one can know that it is. Others may be better placed to solve these puzzles.

1. Alex ~ Vic Maths Notes says:

They’ve asked similar questions to MCQ7 (2016 Sample E2 Q6ei, 2017 NHT E2 Q6e, 2018 E2 Q6, 2019 NHT E2 Q6f, 2021 E2 Q6e), but they’ve changed the wording to explicitly ask about the probability of it being a type II error than describing it out in words (“Find the probability that the null hypothesis would be incorrectly accepted” “find the probability that the paint company’s claim is not rejected at the 1% level of significance”). Other times, they’ve only asked up to finding the smallest/greatest value such that H0 would not be rejected.

1. marty says:

I see. Thank you very much, Alex.

2. Back in Black says:

Re: “shortest distance questions”.

Using the study design as a definitive curriculum document (something it is meant to be, by definition), it cannot be clear to anybody that this material is examinable. The only way of ‘knowing’ is to treat the sample exam questions as a (incomplete?) ‘supplement’ to the study design.

The loophole, of course, is to argue that such questions are in the study design. For example, the (shortest) distance between two skew lines is given by the magnitude of the scalar resolute of in the direction of :

where A is a point on line 1, B is a point on line 2 and is a vector perpendicular to both lines. Therefore this sort of question is simply an application of the scalar resolute. A counterargument to this is that it is very doubtful that such an application would be ‘taught’ (the application would therefore be unknown to most students).

The above is speculation since the VCAA chose not to publish solutions or commentary to its sample exam questions.
NB: There is no sample question involving distance between skew lines. So it’s only my guess that such a question is examinable. But we shouldn’t have to be guessing!

1. marty says:

Thanks, BiB. Yes, this is a puzzling and incredibly annoying aspect.

It would seem sensible for teachers and students to assume distances between points, lines and planes may be examined. But, VCAA not including any reference in the study design, the webinars or the formula sheet would suggest, in a sane world, that this stuff is not examinable.

One again, and always, VCAA is a disaster.

1. Back in Black says:

I agree.
But being sensible could require up to an extra week of teaching … I wonder whether this might over-rule sensibility. I wonder whether a realistic teaching time-frame was considered before all the new stuff was added in.

1. marty says:

As always, why doesn’t someone simply ask VCAA?

1. Back in Black says:

Always the comedian.

1. marty says:

Don’t be an idiot. Of course people should be asking MacNeill.

1. Back in Black says:

I’m not being an idiot. I totally agree with you. Of course they should. That’s what I find so comical (in a Black comedy kind of way).

It would be great if people asked the VCAA questions and the VCAA decided that what was being asked was of value to everyone. The VCAA could maintain and update a FAQ page where it gave straight answers to the questions being asked about the new study design. (Now I’m being the comedian).

PS – In case you’re wondering why the flurry of comments at this blog, there’s nothing like teaching this stuff to Yr 12 students with an eye on the exams and being time poor to make you start realising exactly how vague the study design and curriculum resources are.

15. marty says:

VCAA has recently put up sample exam questions for Foundation Maths and General Maths, and rumour has it that the FM exam contains some weirdness. I’ve added links to the top of the post.

I don’t plan to look at these exams unless some super-weirdness compels it.

1. Simon says:

Just looking through the Foundation Maths formula sheet…

Before looking at specific formulas, the typesetting of words inside formulas is inconsistent – sometimes romanised, sometimes italic. Conventions are well described here: http://old.iupac.org/standing/idcns/italic-roman_dec99.pdf
On a second look, they only get this wrong inside fractions – as it is probably made in Word, this is only a ctrl-i away from being correct…

Algebra:
– The ⇌ arrow in the ratio row is an strange choice – I haven’t seen it used outside of chemistry.
– Percentage Error formula uses absolute value |x|, which now only exists in Specialist…
Probability:
– The “long term data trends” formula is strange – maybe subsumed by the formula below it?
Measurement:
– “Pythagoras’s theorem” hurts. At least in the study design it doesn’t include the extra ‘s
– Heron’s formula is an interesting inclusion – esp as it now only occurs unnamed in General Maths Unit 1 key skills.
– Compare the arc length and sector area formulas – only one has the degree symbol. Be consistent!
Financial:
– It looks like a Pr has been romanised in the simple interest formula, unexpectedly introducing some probability…

There are some other questions raised by the formula sheet. For example, the Study Design says “direct and indirect variation” while the formula sheet includes direct and inverse variation (which matches General Maths). As a teacher, would you teach the students?

16. Julien Baggiere says:

Working through the foundation math exam now and the questions are significantly harder than general math. Transposing 3 step equations with parameters and decimals without a CAS, problem solving questions requiring pythag and similar triangles for 1 mark. The questions are harder than the GAT and yet aimed at the bottom 10% of math students, this is going to be problematic. Keen to see what others think. JB

1. Alex ~ Vic Maths Notes says:

Yes, those questions surprised me to be CAS free. There was also the Plumber question where you were setting up and solving equations CAS free for 1 mark. The second of which you also needed to do the percentage increase on the coefficients beforehand!

In an ideal world, a strong year 10 student should be able to do well on this foundation paper (there’s little on here that isn’t covered somewhere in the F-10A curriculum). So, adding an extra two years to nail those ideas down doesn’t seem too unreasonable, but maybe I’m being too optimistic. This paper feels like what I’d want all students leaving year 12 to be able to do at an absolute bare minimum.

1. Sentinel says:

A couple of mistakes on the foundation math sample exam I found so far:

MCQ5:
The VCAA suggested answer was B; after working out all unit prices for all four items – you will see only item (IV) has the same proportion (unit price).
Also in the question stem there was a typo. The price should be typed “\$5.98” (for the second item, it missed the dollar sign)

MCQ18
The VCAA suggested answer was A – 38 m^2.
However, the correct answer must be 381700 m^2, option D.

And the demanding level of literacy and works required for the rest 60 marks will really put off the Foundation kids. Each question is worth 5 marks, but it seems that a lot of single marks deserve more than just 1 mark…

We must admit there are a number of interesting questions and new ideas in it. Despite that, this Foundation Maths sample exam is overall not very reasonable and not very equitable, given a brand new study design and the very first year of implementation. If the November exam looks similar to this, it would ruin the confidence in many kids and a lot would feel demoralised!

1. Simon says:

Re MCQ5, I think given the precision of the input numbers, the items in II also have the same unit price. Then the supplied answer is correct.

And yes, in MCQ18, they fell for their own distractor (or typoed).

There are some interesting questions, and as others have noticed, this exam has some questions that take a bit of work given the marks allocated. However, I’ve always thought that (most of) the difficulty in the different maths subjects is not the amount of work required for the answers, but the level of abstraction necessary for understanding.

17. Anonymous says:

It’s interesting to me that the Aussie standard seems to mix calculus in with what would be algebra 2 (induction). Albeit the harder parts of algebra and covered fine in books, but sometimes given short shrift in practice.

Overall, since we are talking a pretty elite group, sort of makes sense to be hitting the harder parts of algebra 2 hard. Still not sure if I like or dislike the mixing of topics like this, versus the more (to me) standard one thing after the other. I guess, I basically prefer more what I’m used to. Concentrate on one thing at a time. But I can see the rationale for what they are doing. Not sure what works better in practice.

18. marty says:

I’ve updated the post with a couple brief comments on the Sample Methods Exam questions. I don’t plan to make further updates to this post, unless some one flags something. (I haven’t looked at the sample assessment tasks, for instance.)

19. Back in Black says:

I have a serious question: Are percentiles part of the new Maths Methods syllabus?

If they are, can someone refer me to the explicit VCAA statement of this. Percentiles are not mentioned anywhere in the current Maths Methods Study Design.

I am asking this question because I have started coming across 2023 trial exams that ask for things like the 50th percentile. (Median is also not mentioned in the SD).

Should students be getting taught percentiles and/or median for continuous random variables? Or are these trial exams attempting to set an agenda?

1. marty says:

Are these exams from a pseudoauthority, such as MAV, or no name private companies?

1. Back in Black says:

The former.

2. Alex ~ Vic Maths Notes says:

Closest references are:
– Statistical inference, confidence interval dot point refers to z as “the appropriate quantile”
– sample exam 2 MCQ4 where you find the value of a such that Pr(X<=a)=5/8.

Foundation Maths does refer to percentiles but I'm 99% sure Methods doesn't explicitly (only to do similar types of questions to the one above).

20. Back in Black says:

From the second paragraph of the 4 page transcript of the VCAA resources for the new material linked to the cross product (the resource has a name but I refuse to use it):

“The fact that the cross product is really the determinant of a three by three matrix, …”

No it’s not! The “determinant of a three by three matrix” is simply a calculational mnemonic device and should never be used as definition.

1. marty says:

Thanks, BiB. It’s clumsy wording, although I think you’re being a bit nitpicky. At least it’s not an out and out error. Still, “can be calculated by” or “identified with” would be a lot better.

1. Back in Black says:

Indeed. Then again, enough nits and you have an infestation (also known as a flock).
It is clumsy wording, but what’s the origin of the clumsiness (poor writing or suboptimal understanding). Some questions: Can the elements of a matrix be ‘mixed’ in nature (scalars and vectors) and do the usual properties of a determinant apply for such a ‘mixed’ matrix?