WitCH 139: Increasing Irritation

This one is from Q3 of the 2023 Method Exam 2 and the subsequent exam report (Word, idiots). The entire question is terrible, as discussed here, but I’ll be interested in what people have to say about the specific part below.


79 Replies to “WitCH 139: Increasing Irritation”

  1. You mean to tell me that the exam reports have been published?

    B-B-But it’s only April!

    Will wonders never cease….

    1. To be fair, with last year’s kerfuffle and the subsequent Bennett review, it is understandable if VCAA took more time to get things right. To be unfair, they still didn’t get things right.

          1. VCAA will need to pull its metaphorical finger out if it’s to have any chance of meeting the deadlines stated in the Bennett Review. Education Minister Carroll has publicly and explicitly stated that ALL recommendations of the Bennett Review will be accepted, and that includes the following (from recommendation 6 (a)):

            “ii. Publish the final version of the Marking Guide used to assess students’ performance on the VCAA website within 5 days of the end of the marking of each Mathematics examination.

            iii. Publish the report prepared by the Chief Assessor on the VCAA website before the end of January the following year.”

            I’m certain there are good people currently at the VCAA that will do (and are doing) their best to make this happen. Unfortunately they will be hampered by the chain only being as strong as its weakest link. (The solution is to get rid of all the weakest links).

            1. Yes, this is gonna make people work. But in principle a marking guide is much easier to throw online than a fuller exam report.

              1. I agree in principle. However, call me pessimistic, but the VCAA has spent decades keeping its making guide secret *. It’s going to have to be ripped from VCAA’s tight grip.

                Again, call me pessimistic – I’m sure we’ll get \displaystyle a marking guide, but I wonder whether it will be \displaystyle the marking guide. And I wonder whether the efforts of good people at the VCAA (yes, I happily acknowledge their existence) will be subtly undermined and subverted by weak links in the chain.

                * I suspect it’s one of the main ‘selling points’ for being an Assessor – you get to find out secret stuff.

                1. A good point. We’ll see. One will be able to compare VCAA’s guide to the level of detail provided by QCAA. I haven’t looked at QCAA and am not saying it is a gold or even reasonable standard, but the comparison will be interesting.

                    1. Yeah, sure. But since NSW teaches mathematics, I thought QLD might make for a better comparison.

              2. I received an email earlier from a teacher alerting me to various careless typographical errors in the 2023 exam reports. Apparently the teacher’s students have had great fun finding all the errors in the reports. It’s lucky the VCAA spent 5 months writing these reports. I can only imagine how many errors there would have been if they’d come out at, say, the end of January.

                For those who can’t join the dots and recognise sarcasm – VCAA will have tight deadlines as of the end of this year. The email got me thinking – It’s easier for people to be lazy and sloppy rather than hard working and careful.

                1. I am much less concerned with typographical errors than factual errors, although it’s not exactly classy. Is the suggestion that hte reports are more buggy than usual?

                  1. Just the usual carelessness and lack of attention to detail. For example:

                    Maths Methods Exam 1 Report page 4 Question 3:

                    “1 < x <= or (1, 4]"

                    is missing a 4. It should be 1 < x <= 4 or (1, 4].

  2. I could make a joke about round brackets for rounded answers but I think the issue speaks for itself and is far from funny.

    1. It clearly doesn’t speak for itself to everyone – otherwise it wouldn’t be in the examiners’ report.

      Does this report indicate that they took marks off students for an infinitesimal difference in length in a answer rounded to 2dp?

      Maybe they mean “largest” in terms of cardinality, not length. Then any subinterval is just as large as any other…

      1. Wording such as “largest interval” is always problematic. VCAA consistently uses it. You need a higher level of mathematical capability than the exam writers consistently demonstrate to understand why its problematic. What VCAA intends versus what it writes is often two (subtly) different things (which doesn’t stop Exam Reports being written that provide sanctimonious criticism on how students express themselves. Physician heal thyself).

        I think the following is better:

        The function h is strictly increasing over the interval [a, b]. Find, correct to two decimal places, the smallest value of a and the largest value of b.

        The ‘down side’ is that because the question is more precisely worded, there are less booby traps (such as using wrong brackets – a VCAA favourite).

        1. I like your rewording. Definitely less ambiguity, which is good for an exam. There is still room for students to trip up over which way to round – which probably gets closer to the thinking you want to examine with such a question.

        2. I don’t like John’s rewording, although at least it is clear. I think “maximal interval” would have been fine (except that the question still sucks).

          I don’t think the expression “largest interval” is exactly wrong, since intervals can be compared both in terms of length and (more relevant here) set inclusion, and “largest” somehow captures that. So, I don’t think the use of “largest” here is nearly as bad as the use of “largest number of” in the GAT.

          Still, “largest interval” is a poor choice of words, pointing more towards length than anything, which is not what they intended. Also “largest interval of x values” is clearly the language of a foreigner, just visiting the country and unaware of the customs.

  3. I feel maybe that the question and marking scheme were incorrectly adapted from an Exam 1 question where the boundaries could be written without approximation…

    1. Simon, can you make clear your objections? This is all too cryptic, and I don’t think anything here is obvious.

  4. I have two issues and am prepared to be convinced that I am wrong on one but not the other.

    **1.** The values of x for which h(x) is strictly increasing are not simple expressions so when answers are rounded to two decimal places from 0.48509\leq x\leq 3.21243 (see point 2 about the \leq vs < situation) then you no longer have the **largest** interval.

    **2.** I have never known whether or not VCAA considers a function to be strictly increasing/decreasing at the point(s) where h'(x)=0.

      1. Ah yes, I forgot about that. Thank you for the reminder.

        However… since we are *rounding* values, h'(x) is not actually zero…

    1. I’m not sure I object strongly to 1, although like Simon, this smells of a MM1 question poorly adapted to MM2. One thing that concerns me, however, is if the rounding had worked out differently.

      Suppose, for example, the interval to 3dp had been [0.484, 3.216]. What then would have been the answer to 2dp?

      1. Then it would be a case of (for want of a better phrase) ‘real life rounding’ where 0.484 would be rounded up and 3.216 would be rounded down. VCAA has form for this sort of rounding, particularly in Specialist Maths statistics questions.

        1. Sure. But is that what the examiners expected to be considered in this exam question? If so, why didn’t the examiners round similarly for the intervals on which the function is increasing?

            1. But it’s a rather critical question. It suggests to me that it was dumb luck, with p = 1/4, that the report’s answer to the exam question turned out to be correct.

  5. I believe (a, b) and [a,b] have the same cardinality, so the report calling one set ‘larger’ than the other seems a bit dodgy.

    1. More than “a bit”, I would suggest.

      But yes, I think the qualifier “largest” is highly problematic.

    2. Cardinality isn’t really the issue here (I was poking fun at “largest” when I raised it). All nontrivial intervals of R have the same cardinality.

      The only sensible interpretations for largest could be longest, in which case the () and [] cases are the same. Or the largest in terms of the subset relation. But given rounding to two dp implies an uncertainty of +-0.005 on the end points, worrying about the infinitesimal difference between including and excluding endpoints seems a bit rich.

    3. Well, (0.49, 3.21) and (0.49, 0.49000001) have the same cardinality. IMO this is nowhere near the worst thing above.

  6. What is the validation procedure for these examinations? Are there any individuals (teachers, former students, professors) who are asked to actually take the test in advance to detect any bugs? When you set such a test, you have one thing in mind and it is easy for something to slip by.

    1. Question: Are there any individuals (teachers, former students, professors) who are asked to actually take the test in advance to detect any bugs?

      Answer: Yes. However, the facts (such as the report arising from the Bennett Review) clearly show that some of the individuals used by the VCAA were not competent or attentive. The chain is only as strong as the weakest link.

      The facts (including private communications with people such as myself) also show that the VCAA steadfastly refused to accept this until it was shoved in their face by the Bennett Review.

    2. Hi, Ed. Of course there is a vetting process, and the process is demonstrably dysfunctional. The Bennett Report carefully outlines the exam production procedure, and also recommends how that procedure should change.

      I haven’t read the Bennett Report in careful detail (next cab off the rank), but i think there are a number of reasons why the vetting process has failed so dismally and so clockworkly. Clearly, the vetters have not been up to scratch, but I think it is also much more than that. I will write about this in some detail, but I think there are two central causes beyond the obvious deficiency of the vetters:

      a) The exam writers also suck;

      b) There are too many vetters, or at least too many “vetters”.

      In regard to (a), what it means is that even before the exams get to the vetters, the process is already screwed. The questions are often so mangled, in every possible manner, that they can be unvettable except to throw them out, which I’m sure is often difficult or impossible at the stage where this is realised. A sow’s ear is a sow’s ear. The Bennett report is very strong on this point, and there is the clear and strong recommendation that competent people be part of the writing of the exams, not simply the vetting.

      On (b), I haven’t thought about this too hard, but I’m sure it’s an issue. There was this exchange at Senate Estimates with Education bureaucrat David Howes:

      Senator O’Brien: I am more particularly looking at the errors and mistakes not being in the exams themselves. How many sets of eyes would see a final exam?

      Howes: The short answer is many.

      I think there are two aspects to this “many eyes” that can make things worse rather than better. First of all, it means that there are many different eyes that can introduce errors, including at a late stage, as well as correct them. Many of these eyes are not particularly mathematical eyes. This is exactly what occurred in Part 1 of the Cheese Story. The second aspect is that the knowledge that there are many other eyes tends to undermine the attention of each individual set of eyes. I’m not convinced that there is any one person who checks the exam as if they’re the only person checking the exam, as if the exam’s life depended upon them.

      There is an obvious inappropriate casualness to the vetting procedure. Every maths exam, without fail, contains numerous questions and phrasings that makes one gasp “How the Hell did you let that through?” Not subtle things, but glaring, “Have you actually read what you signed off on?” things. I don’t think this is simply a matter of incompetence.

      I have another post planned, separate from the planned Bennett post, where I’ll write on this.

      1. 1) It’s possible that the “many eyes” also creates a group think mentality.

        2) Related to what you’ve said is a very damning comment in the Bennett Report (bottom of p26):

        “During its discussions with one of the Chemistry Study Specialist Reviewers, the Panel was told that they had been provided with very little information about what they were expected to focus on when undertaking this task, and did not think when they reviewed the examination paper that it was part of their role to check such things as whether chemical formulae were correct. Similar comments from a Study Specialist Reviewer for Mathematics, and a review of the reports they produced, led the Panel to conclude that these reviewers were not entirely certain of the scope of their responsibilities.”

        3) I think your comment that “First of all, it means that there are many different eyes that can introduce errors, including at a late stage, …”

        explains exactly what happened in the question discussed here:

        The Median is the Message

        Some well meaning fool probably decided at the last minute that \displaystyle -\infty < x \leq 210 should be changed to \displaystyle 0 < x \leq 210 because golly gosh x can't be negative.

        1. I think you are probably correct on (1).

          Regarding (2), yes I think this is part of the culture of casualness. If I have to vet something, I would automatically assume it’s my job to vet every aspect of every thing, unless explicitly told otherwise. It is not clear what vetters are told or how they understand their job, but they clearly do not properly understand their job.

    1. Interesting. I think that is a bit more than a side note as well.

      Although, I do think the issue of disjoint domains for increasing/decreasing was raised on this blog a few years back when it came up in a MCQ. I could be wrong but others may remember it.

      1. Thanks, John. One implication is that if the VCAA examiners would simply read this blog with sufficient attention and humility then they would make (many) fewer errors going forward.

        The fact that VCAA repeats errors is as infuriating as anything. It’s one thing to not know what you’re doing; it’s another to not learn.

        1. Just a general comment that we need to be careful about thinking individuals within the system can make much difference (apart from those at the top who are supposed to be in charge).

          My experience of crap organisations doing complex things is that generally most people are trying to do their best, but when the leadership, system and culture are crap, then crap is almost assuredly the output. Those are the organisations that simply are not capable of learning.

          The real risk is that in spite of the Bennett report, the systems and culture (and hence overall quality) won’t change. The main thing going for change will be those at the top knowing that it’s bureaucratic suicide if there are more errors (especially in 2026 just before the next election) so there is some incentive to improve.

          1. JJ, I take the general point. But, as a specific comment on my comment, I think your talking nonsense.

            A specific person(s) wrote the exam report, including the above nonsense. If that specific person(s) had been aware that I’d already hammered the “increasing” stuff and if they had bothered to take the ten seconds to realise that I was correct to do so, they couldn’t have written the nonsense above. This has nothing to do with a person trying to turn change VCAA: it is simply a matter of taking personal responsibility to be properly educated and properly careful, and to not write things that are not true. Not a really high bar.

            This is not the main point. The main point is the question is appalling, and it would still be appalling even if the exam report had then been clear and correct on the question. And, yes, reliably avoiding this type of exam question entails the kind of institutional change to which you’re referring and which Bennett has recommended. But not getting things wrong in the exam report is still a rather important point, and that is the responsibility of and can be addressed by specific individuals.

            1. You’re of course right Marty, when you look at it from an individual standpoint, but when you consider more of a systems approach, it’s not so simple.

              In a crap, inwardly looking organisation (and I have to emphasise how much further and further from the field it was supposedly responsible for my department felt over the 30 years I was there), it’s just that much harder for the individuals to see an alternative view. And then, every year mistakes appear on exams and no one seems to care. Do I put my head above the parapet and do a really thorough job (including actually reading the person who is criticising the exams) or do I go with the flow? Especially when no one here will thank me or recognise the high quality job I’m doing. Or even worse, if it becomes known that I’m actually taking on board something our worst critic said, that won’t be viewed positively. And then if I’m really open to new ideas and a very high quality approach, why would I have stayed with VCAA anyway, rather than have gone somewhere that will really appreciate my work? The culture of the organisation seeps through all its work. You can do a good job in such an organisation but it’s so much harder to do it there and then why bother – better to leave. etc etc

              The point I am making is just how much culture determines what happens and how hard it will be to get real lasting change at VCAA. If the organisation is so broken, that year after year mistakes are made on exams and no one cares, then it will take more than just a Bennett Review to fix it.

              It will take a real change in culture, brought about by new high quality leadership, with strong support from above.

              1. JJ, it’s funny you should say this because I personally know of at least one good person who was trying to make change at the vcaa and they got their head metaphorically shot off. I had my differences with this person and I know I often pissed them off, but they were decent and genuine and I respected them during their time at the vcaa.

              2. Thanks, JJ. I agree that the general culture makes it very difficult for one to poke up one’s head, and for it to seem worthwhile to do so, and for it to make any difference. So, I understand there are many aspects of the VCAA circus for which no one person could defeat the clowns, and couldn’t see the point in trying. And I also agree that this won’t change via Bennett unless there is clear and strong leadership in VCAA, supported by the Minister.

                But …

                We are talking here, as we often are, about mathematical truth. I can totally understand that plenty or all people within VCAA are reluctant to agree with That Asshole Marty. But truth is truth. Denying it only makes VCAA look stupider for longer. And they can be correct simply by being correct: they don’t have to refer to me in any way whatsoever.

                1. Marty, I seem to recall that you don’t like Australian Rules Football (but I might be wrong). So apologies (if necessary) for the following:

                  A pair of football commentators (let’s call them Kornes and Nuckley) have gone head-to-head over the stubbornness of AFL coaches and their lack of desire to make changes, particularly when they’re being called for from the ‘outside’.

                  Kornes: “Can I ask you, we’ve all been calling for …. and it’s taken five weeks for that to happen. Why are coaches so stubborn? Is it almost like the external advice they get, they want to push back on that? … everyone has seen that as such an obvious move to make, yet they have resisted doing that. Are coaches so stubborn that they want to push back on the advice they get externally?”

                  Nuckley: “Are you serious?”

                  Kornes: “I am. What would be the other reason?”

                  Nuckley: “Are you suggesting that a coach won’t do something that might be better for their team because someone else suggested it externally?”

                  Kornes: “That’s what I’m asking you.”


                  Why do I mention this football commentary? I think that sometimes (often) the VCAA doesn’t do something, irrespective of the “truth is truth”, simply because it’s being called for from the ‘outside’

                  I don’t think it’s a simple matter of “VCAA are reluctant to agree with That Asshole Marty”. I think VCAA is reluctant to agree with any ‘outsider’, even Saint NiceGuy.

                  Whatever the reason for this, I’m hopeful/optimistic that this attitude is changing and that there are people at the VCAA who do/will listen to ‘outsiders’ and welcome suggestions coming from outside the VCAA group think echo chamber.

                  1. God. You and JJ are both ignoring the obvious point. I don’t care about cultures and footy metaphors. I care about why some one clown stuffed up this question on this report.

                    There are two large things wrong with the exam report on this question:

                    a) The report is silent on the rounding issue.

                    b) The report stuffs up the function being increasing on a disconnected set (and inadvertently suggesting the examiners also stuffed up (a) but simply got lucky.)

                    The point is that (b) is absolutely an own goal. There was no need to write what they did, even in defense of an idiotic question, even if they had not understood the rounding issue. And to avoid it, they didn’t have to talk to anyone or risk being seen to support Marty or anything: they simply had to learn from the fact that VCAA made the same stuff up two years ago. And they didn’t.

                    The exam report was not written by VCAA. It was written by one person, or very very few people. If that person had been aware of the previous blog post then they would at least have avoided the own goal. But they didn’t.

                    Why not?

                    1. Oh. Ah. I didn’t actually read/see the last sentence of that section of the Report. No wonder you’re frustrated. I’m really sorry. I’ve been posting comments without the context of the mathematical ineptitude of that last sentence. I simply didn’t see it. I was focused on the answer to part (b).

                2. Hi Marty – I’m afraid that mathematical truth will always fall a long way behind political truth in the bureaucracy (we are in the age of Trump which makes it even worse).

                  You’d be amazed how stupid you can look for a very long time without it making much of a difference. For example, after NSW had the asbestos in the playgrounds, you’d think the Vic EPA would have made sure of its ground wouldn’t you – that’s logic after all. But they are still denying there’s a problem and will do so until the numbers of bits become just so immense that politically there’s no choice.

                  And that’s a scientific truth isn’t it – testing can identify asbestos! And even common sense that ordinary mortals who have kids can understand (as opposed to an abstruse mathematical truth only a small % of the population understand).

                  1. You’re still missing the point. On *this* question on *this* exam report there was *one* clown who stuffed up. Needlessly. With no benefit to VCAA in the short term or long term or in any sense of the word whatsoever.


                    1. Hi Marty – It’s the wrong question, I’m afraid.

                      In hospitals (and schools of course but mistakes are easier to ignore), there are zillions of mistakes in spite of high quality staff, procedures etc – it’s the nature of human activity in a fast paced, complex sphere.

                      However mistakes cost lives and people understandably are very upset about the person who is injured ‘needlessly’. Who made the mistake? Find the culprit!!!!

                      One approach they got very excited about from the airline industry was ‘root cause analysis’ which does what it says on the tin – identifies the ultimate culprit – just as you are seeking to.

                      BUT aeroplanes are not humans and hospitals, schools, bureaucracies are far more complex places. They are more ‘complex adaptive systems’ where things change constantly and it’s very hard to identify a single cause (tempting though it is). Most things that go wrong are a combination of a whole lot of factors. And rather than try and predict what could go wrong, on the whole it’s better to have a high morale, flexible team willing to take initiative to catch things when they start to fall (as they always do) and before they break.

                      BUT this relies on a no-blame culture. Where there’s a blame culture, most people’s actions are guided by CYA and avoiding taking initiative (which could have fixed the problem, but if it doesn’t work, they get blamed).

                      Of course you still need to shoot a general every now and then as Napoleon said, but it’s the general who gets shot, not the poor foot soldier who is generally identified as the root cause.

                      VCAA doesn’t care about benefit – it cares about continuing to exist with as little ‘trouble’ as possible (hence why they hired Deloitte to do the cover-up). Identifying the culprit in this instance just helps shift the blame to an individual from the crap job it as an organisation does generally.

                      Fix that and errors like this one will magically disappear!

                    2. I don’t think Marty is trying to identify the culprit. I’m not sure he cares about who the culprit is too much either…

                      That an error was REPEATED in the current climate of VCAA criticism beggars belief.

                      And I’m guessing this is the main gripe.

                    3. Not that I speak for Marty, but given that he’s ‘given up’:

                      I think his main gripe is that VCAA “simply had to learn from the fact that [they] made the same stuff up two years ago. And they didn’t.”

                      In fact, VCAA first made this stuff up in 2010, but was never called out on it – see Q4 of attachment.

                      Sorry JJ. Although I understand what you’re saying, I must reject its application to the VCAA. Because if what you’re saying is true, that is, “VCAA doesn’t care about benefit – it cares about continuing to exist with as little ‘trouble’ as possible” then it requires a total purge and reset.

                      I think VCAA’s actions, both in the last few years and over the last few decades, is not about existing “with as little ‘trouble’ as possible.” I think it’s purely about protecting incompetent people and CYA. As well as being completely arrogant.


                    4. Sorry Marty – I’m not trying to be difficult. I suspect we all agree but what I’m emphasising is just how long and how badly something can go on for without much change – to the layperson (and sometimes even the insider), it does beggar belief – but it happens time and again.

                      As John K noted, it’s being going on since at least 2010. It does indeed become mainly about protecting incompetent people and CYA. As well as being completely arrogant.

                      Perhaps my point should be rather to reinforce your AMAZING achievement in getting change – that is INCREDIBLY hard and you’ve managed it in a field not normally paid attention to much by the public!

                    5. JJ, in fairness the VCAA itself deserves most of the credit for the changes that will happen. If the VCAA hadn’t made such stupid mistakes with their exams in 2023, mistakes that became newsworthy because any rube could understand them, I doubt much would be changing. I doubt the Education Minister would have been embarrassed and angry enough to order a \displaystyle genuine review. (But credit to Minister Carroll, he did take a personal interest. Unlike his immediate predecessor, to whom similar complaints about the VCAA were made
                      [by me] and those complaints simply got handballed back to the VCAA).

                      If the numerous 2023 mistakes had just been the usual serious mathematical errors that the VCAA made every other year, I’m certain the VCAA would have gone into its usual cover-up mode (which it did with the serious 2022 errors, despite the Age reporting on them) and nothing much would have changed.

    2. I also think it’s more than a side note, because it raises for me what students were expected to do to answer the question asked. It’s a 1 mark question, so no argument was required. But what argument is considered required to ensure that the answer [0.49, 3.21] is correct?

      What precisely does “largest interval … correct to two decimal places” mean? What does it mean to the examiners and what does it mean to the readers here?

  7. OK, not sure if this has been mentioned, hinted at or outright ignored because it is so damned obvious (or stupid)…

    If the examiners report says that (-\infty,0.49]\cup[3.29,\infty) is where the function is strictly increasing and [0.49,3.21] is where the function is strictly decreasing does that mean that they are saying at x=0.49 and x=3.21 the function is both?

    1. Yes the exam report is saying that, which is wrong, but it might have been right.

      Consider the function \boldsymbol{y=x^2}. This function is SD on the interval (-∞,0] and SI on the interval [0,∞). That is no contradiction.

      One thing you have to be careful about, and VCAA is not, is that functions are not increasing/decreasing at a point: they are increasing/decreasing on an interval. So, in the above example, we would *not* say the function is increasing and/or decreasing at 0.

      (One could define a function to be increasing or decreasing at a point, but that is not what is done in VCE.)

      For this reason, I don’t like the language of the question. The phrase “largest interval of x values for which” has some flavour of talking about each individual x, one at a time. The phrase “largest interval on which” is much more indicative of treating the interval as a whole.

      1. Understood.

        I still don’t see why VCAA needed to say more than “this answer was seen, it was wrong.”

        1. It was natural to explain how that answer came about. But the reason isn’t because this is “where the function is increasing” but because “we stuffed up the exam in 2021 and then neglected to tell anyone”.

    1. It is Exam 2 which is CAS-active.

      Related: One of the reasons given for why the MCQ in Exam 2 will now have four options instead of five is that it makes these questions consistent with other States. The point has been made elsewhere that if consistency with other states is wanted, one should look towards NSW where there is no CAS. To be consistent, CAS should therefore be gotten rid of. Of course this won’t happen (any time soon). I have zero time for arguments that cherry pick what’s convenient and ignore what’s not. (Consider all the blarney about how we should teach this way or that way because that’s what they do in such-and-such a country. But all the other things that get done in that country that aren’t so convenient get ignored).

  8. How much does working for VCAA pay and what are the criteria for getting the job?
    And how do they vet your mathematical ability?

    There seems to be some sort of taboo against making adults do a test. But credentials are largely meaningless: is a working physicist more or less qualified than a bachelor of stats? Is maths faculty head a strong indicator? Efficient exam marker? 20 years teaching? How is mathematical ability going to be represented on a mindless key selection criteria?

    And if it’s just teacher-ish wages, who’s even going for the jobs?

    I think the simple answer to all of Marty’s questions is that everyone at VCAA is of mediocre intelligence and ability.

    If they’re not planning on doubling the wages, or having candidates solve unseen theorems in the interview, then that’s unlikely to change.

    1. Hi Alex. I think it has all been simpler that. The only question VCAA asked of potential writers/vetters was: Are you part of the Inner Sanctum? VCAA has employed substantially the same people for decades, and obviously independent of merit.

      But there is also a double-barrelled difficulty for VCAA employing mathematically literate people: (1) VCAA does not have enough mathematical sense to select people with enough mathematical sense; (2) proper mathematicians have been out of the VCE world for so long, both VCAA and the mathematicians themselves forgot that the mathematicians might be of use.

      I think this can be solved, at least in large part, and I think it will be seriously addressed by VCAA in response to the Bennett report. But it’s not about money or tests. It’s about proper respect to the mathematical groups that can obviously contribute. We’ll see, but I’m hopeful.

      1. Long term, do you think the university mathematics community would be willing to contribute their time on a significantly-less-than-market-rate basis?

        I agree that absolutely solves it, but I worry that this sort of goodwill and semi-voluntarism is unstable. It would certainly be a good backstop for the actual maths staff at VCAA to be good mathematicians.

        I’m glad you’re hopeful.

        Also worth pointing out that the Maths team are a model of competency and efficiency compared to the Physics. So it’s VCAA wide.

        1. Alex, that’s the million dollar question. The good will and semi-volunteerism is now anything but a gimme, noting this comment from Tony Gardiner. But, there are hopeful signs (which I won’t go into).

          Physics + Mathematics = VCAA sounds like a flawed induction proof, and I’d have to be convinced. I’m sure there are systemic issues with VCE, beyond maths and physics, but I’d be surprised if the nature of the individual subjects and historical contingencies didn’t play a large role in it all. As for Physics, yes, I’ve heard nothing but horrendous reports of the subject.

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