'Stressed' maths students do better than expected in NCEA exam from hell

Thousands of maths and statistics students will have breathed a deep sigh of relief with the release of provisional NCEA Level 1 exam results this week.

Those same students staggered out of exam rooms last November, stressed and close to tears over the difficulty of some questions.

That reaction caused considerable hand-wringing among the education fraternity and pessimistic expectations around the results.

This week's results suggest those students did better than they expected.

The paper entitled 'Tables, equations and graphs' caused the most anxiety at the time and probably produced the lowest outcomes.

Still, 71.2 percent of students gained an Achieved or better mark for 2017, down on the previous year (80.5 percent). This is outside the range over the past five years (78.1-84 percent), but probably not as dire as the doomsayers predicted.

The proportion of students gaining Merit and Excellence was about the same as previously.

In 'Geometric reasoning', this year's standard (73.5 percent) was within the range and slightly higher than the previous year.

Results for 'Chance and data' and 'Algebraic procedures', which was tested internally in September, were also within the range of previous marks.

"Mathematics is an important subject," said NZQA deputy chief executive Kristine Kilkelly. "We want to make sure students have the opportunity to be successful in their studies and we support the work that teachers are doing to engage students in mathematics.

"On the whole, students did well in externally assessed mathematics and statistics achievement standards across all three levels of NCEA.

"Provisional results for the NCEA Level 1 Mathematics and Statistics examinations in November show the majority of students who sat the examinations gained an Achieved or better grade for each standard."

NZQA doesn't usually release provisional results to the public, but took this step to answer the concerns of teachers, who penned an open letter to the organisation, protesting the severity of the exam.

"Early in term one, we will work with regional and national mathematics associations to discuss these results with teachers, talk about how the standards are assessed and their feedback to the assessments," said Ms Kilkelly.

"We will involve the Ministry of Education, as the owner of the curriculum and standards."

Ms Kilkelly also assured students that falling short of external standards would not prevent them from studying mathematics at Level 2.

"We encourage students to talk with their teachers, once school starts."