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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Hard Questions

A number of our children from the Medway towns remarked that the recent mathematics paper was hard. No matter how much good preparation has been done, the way some questions are presented in an examination can possible make the questions appear to be more difficult than they really are.

A shop sells 2 pairs of shoes of size 3, 3 pairs of size 4, 5 pairs of size 5, 2 pairs of size 6 and 1 pair of size 8. Find the median and mode.

To cope with this question we need to know what the words `median’ and `mode’ mean. To learn the vocabulary of mathematics we need to revise on a regular basis.

In order to complete the question, however, requires a series of stages.

We need to put the shoe sizes in order:

3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 6, 6, 8

A median is the middle number. After we have put the numbers into order it is easy to see that the median is 5.

The mode is the number appearing most often. So in this example the mode is also 5. More shoes of size 5 are sold than of any other size.

A question like this could be grossly unfair to some children – yet others would relish the challenge.

None of us can believe that an eleven plus test sets out present children with unanswerable questions. The test is trying to select children for one form of senior education. I know of some children who would have smiled with delight to have been confronted by a hard question. Other children would have found it all too much. The great majority of our children would have simply done their best.

We advise our children to say, after an examination, simply that they have done their best. We suggest that the children say that they found some questions easy and others hard. We explain to the children that parents become very worried and concerned - and even anxious. We tell our children that parents also need to be reassured.

"Look Mum, I did my best."

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