Top marks for WHS students

Photo / Lucy Drake

It is not every day students admit they enjoy sitting their end-of-year exams.

But for 14 year 11 Whanganui High School students, one maths exam in particular gave their brains an adrenaline rush and saw their grades climb to the top.

The Cambridge International General Certificate of Secondary Education Mathematics course (IGCSE) was part of the Whanganui High School year 11 curriculum for the first time last year and out of the 21 students who chose to study it, 14 got an A grade or higher.

Year 11 students Troy Brennan and Blair Gowan both received an A plus grade for the exam.

Whanganui High School Cambridge Mathematics teacher Pete Coombs said the exam was a lot more challenging than an NCEA maths exam.

"There's no standard on this and that, it's one paper on all that you've done so you're memory's got to be up to scratch and it's a nice way to really assess the students' complete ability."

Whanganui High School Cambridge Mathematics teacher and co-ordinator Ravi Prasad said there were no formulas given so students so they have to remember them on their own.

The students said they spent hours studying for the exam and it was one of their most difficult exams they had to sit.

Prasad said IGCSE was a very different curriculum to NCEA as it focused on a wider range and a broader knowledge of mathematics.

A-grade student Callum Sinclair said he really enjoyed maths and found the course fun.

Before 2019, the IGCSE course had been an extra curriculum course for students to study in their free time on lunch breaks or after school.

Now, year 11 students have the option to choose it as a subject.

"The students wanted more maths and this leads to scholarships at university," Prasad said.

A-grade student James Gray said: "Last year in the first week what we learned in Cambridge is what we learned throughout the entire term in normal NCEA maths."

Coombs said an ex-student of his told him the Cambridge Mathematics course was the most valuable maths he had ever learned at high school as he found it the most useful when studying engineering at university.

"They learn things like vectors, metrics, transformations, a lot of things that broaden the students' mathematical knowledge, experience, capability and lots of these topics they are missed out on in NCEA.

"But once you get to university that means they have a lot more confidence handling the maths that they come against rather than having to do the quick learning to bring you up to scratch over the first term at university."

Jack Fawthorpe was the only year 12 student to gain an A at the AS level and is now continuing on with Cambridge Mathematics in year 13.

The exam is internationally recognised and Coombs said this recognition is very valuable to students.

Lucy Drake
Whanganui Chronicle 5/2/20

(*) Last Reviewed: February 5, 2020

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