A Christmas Tree In Sunlight

Christmas2012

Well you know, the exams. And then all the things I had to put off because of the exams. But it came together in the end. To be honest I was so hopped up on exam adrenaline that I got shopping done before I knew it. Oh and there was a side project – of which more anon.

Anyway, this year’s tree ended up being modest but respectable. Though I should point out that the picture shows a miniature pine, not giant presents. We got one in a pot as this is more eco-friendly, and also easier. Assuming it survives it’ll be brought in at Christmas for years to come. Biggest problem will be resisting the temptation to leave the lights on it.

Well I hope all of you who celebrate Christmas – whether you’re actually Christian, or merely see it as an opportunity to give things to people you care about – had a lovely day. I’m going to sleep now.

Leaving Us Confused

Histogram of sepal widths for Iris versicolor ...
This distribution of people who nod as if they know what graphs like this actually mean

Today is the day that bad decisions are made.

For it is the day that the results of the School Leaving Certificate Examination (the “Leaving”) come out. Today the students make bad decisions by getting drunk while still mostly underage. And politicians, by making promises.

Ten percent of students failed maths at ordinary level. In a knowledge-based economy that is simply not good enough, etc. Something must be done. Teachers must be fired, students must be fired, schools should be closed, opened or set fire to. Lessons must be made harder, exams easier, students must work more and take more time to rest. Draw your own headless chickens.

But… Isn’t the whole point of exams that some people fail them?

I don’t really think that ninety percent is so terrible a pass rate for an exam that, you know, is actually testing something. And not merely basic numeracy; the Leaving Cert ordinary-level paper is essentially a qualification to enter university, as almost all courses require it. So are we really in trouble if only ninety per cent of the population qualify for third level education? Less than sixty percent actually avail of it.

Could it be that the reason the public panic over standards in mathematics is that they don’t understand some basic mathematics? Because if they don’t… Wait.