A Tale of Three Cities

This is kind of a WitCH, but there’s plenty of non-crap as well. It is also properly a tale of two states and a planet, but the title was difficult to resist.

A few months ago a teacher-reader sent me three recent assessment questions from three different sources: NSW’s HSC Extension 2 Exam, the World’s IB Higher Level Analysis Exam, and Victoria’s VCE Specialist Mathematics Sample Assessment Tasks (SACs). All three questions involve integrating functions of the form \boldsymbol{x^ne^{kx}}, and the teacher-reader had suggested that there was a smell of plagiarism about it all. We weren’t convinced of that; the functions are very natural fodder for senior mathematics questions, and if there is arguably some borrowing, it is definitely not a Harvard standard of plagiarism. Indeed, the three questions are notably different in, um, style. That seemed worthy of a post.

Here are the three questions. Readers can have at it. Continue reading “A Tale of Three Cities”

The Complex Roots of VCAA’s Defence

1. Introduction

Sometimes VCAA is their own worst enemy. Well, no: we all know the identity of VCAA’s worst enemy. But on occasion VCAA places runner up. Maybe third.

I’ve been pondering VCAA’s major 2022 errors, how they could have occurred and how VCAA could continue to defend the flawed questions for so long, against all reason. Yes, “VCAA is nuts” springs to mind. But that’s not enough. VCAA being nuts is necessary but not sufficient to explain this extended episode of madness. Continue reading “The Complex Roots of VCAA’s Defence”

The Stability of Stupidity

We’ve been pondering VCAA’s weird defence of their 2022 exam questions, and we decided to investigate a little. We’ll write more on this soon, but for now just a quick post on something very unsurprising that we stumbled upon in the Year 12 Specialist texts. The following is an exercise that appears in both Jacaranda and Nelson (but not in Cambridge): Continue reading “The Stability of Stupidity”

VCAA’s Defence of the Indefensible 2022 Exam Questions

The most maddening aspect of VCAA is their steadfast refusal to admit error. Typically, VCAA simply will not engage and whatever nonsense they’ve written remains written. 2022 was different, however, in that Burkard and I badgered VCAA sufficiently for VCAA to decide to conduct an external review(s). As well, a mathematics teacher complained strongly enough and unwaveringly enough about the four bad Specialist Mathematics questions that a substantial response to his specific objections was required. Continue reading “VCAA’s Defence of the Indefensible 2022 Exam Questions”

The Cheese Story, Part Two

In 2015, pre-blog, I was not the dedicated thug that I am today. I had already taken a few potshots at VCAA, but I hadn’t gone in hard. I understood, of course, that VCAA was prone to being arrogant and inept, but I hadn’t yet concluded that they were systemically arrogant and inept. I hadn’t yet realised the magnitude of the target. So, in 2015, when two teachers approached me complaining about a VCE exam question, I handled it differently than I would now. Then, I was polite and patient with VCAA. We all learn.

Continue reading “The Cheese Story, Part Two”

Bad Estimates

On 23 November, secretaries of Victoria’s Department of Education appeared before Victoria’s Public Accounts and Estimates Committee, an “Inquiry into the 2021–22 and 2022–23 Financial and Performance Outcomes“. This included the appearance of the Secretary, Jenny Atta, and the Deputy Secretary, Schools and Regional Services, Dr. David Howes. The full transcript is here and answers to the questions on notice are here.

After an introductory presentation by Atta, the questioning was begun by Nationals MP, Danny O’Brien. Below are excerpts from O’Brien’s questioning of Atta and Howes, together with an answer provided later to a question on notice. Emphasis has been added at various points, for obvious reasons.

Continue reading “Bad Estimates”

Gaming the Mathematics Exams in 1903

Trying to understand when and how Victorian maths education went so wrong has led us down some pretty obscure rabbit holes. A very helpful guide to this warren is Ken Clements and, in particular, Clements’ interesting and interestingly slanted history of Victorian school mathematics, Mathematics for the Minority. Pictured above is one of the rabbits (so to speak). Continue reading “Gaming the Mathematics Exams in 1903”

One FEL Swoop: The Foundation Error List

This is the (new) newly established home for Foundation Mathematics exam errors. The guidelines are given on the Methods error post, and there is also a Specialist error post, and a (now renamed) General error post (with unchanged link).  As with General Maths, I will not look much at the Foundation exams, only posting errors as they are brought to my attention.


2023 Exam (Exam here, report here (Word, idiots), discussed here)

MCQ13 The key to the graph is confusing, and wrong. Some indication that “payment” and “interest” are cumulative had to be included.

Q1(c) There are two methods of working out the percentage increase, which give different answers. One method is unlikely to have been considered by students, but this still should not occur.

Q2(e) The question makes zero sense, since it assumes that a person cannot play both a ball sport and a non-ball sport. The question also fails to specify the percentage is of females participating in a sport.

Q6 An awfully written question, throughout confusing usage with market share. There is probably only one plausible way to answer the questions, but this is teaching Not Maths.

Q6(a) The 2022 percentages in the graph do not total to 100%. This in itself is ok, but it leads to two potential answers to (a); one answer is unlikely to be given, but this still should not occur. The graph should have been appropriately labelled.

Q11 The outer rectangle on the diagram doesn’t mean anything and was probably actively confusing.

Did VCAA Misgrade the 2022 Exams and, if so, Why?

This will be my last VCAA post for a while. I’m sick of it all. And, anyway, it’s now a matter of waiting to see what the Minister and the newly acting CEO of VCAA will do. I think both of them have demonstrated some genuine interest in repairing the mathematics exams, and I think both of them deserve an honest shot at it, without a nasty blogger sniping at them. But, there’s one last post I think must be written.

One of the lingering puzzles of VCAA’s Deloitte Debacle is why VCAA were so determined to game their mathematics exam reviews so much. VCAA were clearly determined beyond all plausibility to ensure that Deloitte examined nothing beyond trivialities, and it seems VCAA didn’t let a proper mathematician get within a country mile of the exam questions. But why? Sure, the 2022 exams were, as always, bad, with, as always, bad errors, and any halfway honest review would have been plenty embarrassing. But bureaucratic deceit can only hide so much, and not nearly as much as VCAA had to hide. So now, rather than simply looking like a gang of clowns, VCAA looks like a gang of deceitful clowns.  Continue reading “Did VCAA Misgrade the 2022 Exams and, if so, Why?”

Critique of the 2023 Victorian VCE Mathematics Exams

Sorry guys, it ain’t gonna happen. Burkard’s and my 2022 critique was time-consuming and exhausting and stressful. We’re not doing it again. Ever. So, for this year the Discussion posts (here, here, here, here, here, here and here), and the Errors post will have to do. Continue reading “Critique of the 2023 Victorian VCE Mathematics Exams”