[Maths-Education] The resource for the course

Stephen and Rachel BRIERLEY stephen@brierley.demon.co.uk
Tue, 18 Sep 2001 06:52:23 +0100

on 17/9/01 6:01 pm, Tim Rowland at tr202@cus.cam.ac.uk wrote:

> The blurb certainly raises some interesting questions in relation to
> your (John M) own work on routine and non-routine examination questions,
> and the general aims of an education in mathematics. Maybe it is
> appropriate for GCSE questions to be routine, in the sense suggested in
> the blurb? It is also true to say that even at undergraduate level,
> most students steer clear of the unfamiliar - in content and even in
> appearance - when it comes to timed examinations. A comment by one of my
> former colleagues, now retired, sticks in my mind: that a question that
> the setters consider to be 'interesting' is, more often than not,
> unsuitable. 
> Tim Rowland
> University of Cambridge

May I beg to differ?  It all depends on your definition of the word
"interesting", of course, and whether or not you think exams ought to be
"interesting" or whether they ought to be a random selection of
unimaginative questions from assorted text-book exercises -- "Solve this
equation", "Find the mean", "Construct this triangle" etc.

But it is possible, surely, to find suitable items which are not "routine".
The Key Stage 3 papers always seem to me to have quite a few "interesting"
items (examples available on request), very few of which could be described
as "routine".  This is in strict contrast to the un-pretested GCSE and
'A'-level papers of recent years.

As an ordinary Maths teacher (albeit one who writes for KS3) I apologise if
my comments betray a lack of familiarity with the work of John M or others
in this area.

Stephen Brierley