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Wherein CP does that exam problem with the crocodile


This morning, Twitter was doing its Twitter thing about a maths problem again. Most people were linking to this BBC story, “Crocodile maths question ‘was challenging'”.

Apparently this year’s Scottish New Higher maths exam contained a question which a lot of people found hard. You could remove the word “crocodile” from that headline and obtain a perfectly acceptable statement about a maths exam, but that’s not what people are complaining about.

The mathematics examinations faced by school leavers in the Republic of Ireland

This Friday, close to 13,000 students in the Republic of Ireland are set to take higher level maths in the Leaving Certificate, the state exams for 17-18 year old school leavers. That’s the highest number for two decades, and a 25% increase on last year’s all-time low of 10,400 who registered to sit the higher level exams. Typically, only about 80% of those show up for the higher level paper on the day–last year just 8,200 did–the rest playing safe and switching at the last minute to the ordinary level exams.

In 2011, a little over 55,000 Irish students overall, in a country with a population of 4.6 million, sat the Leaving Certificate in their final days of secondary education. This year, just under 54,000 school leavers are taking the Leaving, as it’s known. I hope they’ve studied hard, and wish them every success!

Inclusion and Exclusion and the new GMAT

Dublin native Colm Mulcahy has been in the Department of Mathematics at Spelman College since 1988. His interests include algebra, number theory, geometry and mathematical card principles and effects. Follow him on Twitter at @CardColm and also check out @WWMGT

The last question, under the heading “Two-Part Analysis”, at the end of this NYT article (from July 2011) on the new GMAT seems to be deliberately worded in a way that forces one to read and think very carefully.

It takes a while to even process the question as it’s asked! I’m assuming that was intentional.

I’m curious how “they” intended people to solve this. Exclude impossible answers until only one is still Included?  I guess so.