HSC Mathematics Reference Sheet

As term 2 starts in NSW it is worthwhile to take a breath and consider the impact of the new Reference Sheet that will be issued in HSC Advanced and Extension Mathematics examinations this year.  Will it help students in examination conditions or hinder them? This is a major change to mathematics education in NSW. Previously, students were not given formulae. Now formulae will be provided for topics in the Advanced and Extension 1 courses (formulae unique to Extension 2 topics are not provided). Many experienced teachers are advising their students to remember formulae (as in the past) and not fall into the trap of thinking that the sheet will cure poor mathematical understanding of concepts. Teachers have also commented that students are spending too much time flicking through pages looking for formulae when a simple application of important results, such as using the trig ratios of 30, 45 and 60 degrees, is required. As well, not all formulae are given, an example being the formula for the tan of the angle between two straight lines. It is important to reinforce that examination questions require the use of mathematical techniques and systematic working. Areas such as money payment problems in the Advanced course, which are usually poorly attempted, are not provided with formulae. Treat the Reference Sheet as an aid for the memory, not as a source of mathematical understanding. Once more, clearly show all working and be careful with basic algebra. This is the key to mathematical success.