Umalusi appoints panel to probe ‘unsolvable’ mathematics question

The question caused an uproar amongst pupils from across the country.

Matriculants sitting for their 2022 final examinations expressed frustration and anger after encountering an “unsolvable” trigonometry question in their Mathematics Paper 2 exam.

Difficult Maths Paper 2 question

The difficult Question 5.1, worth seven marks, was flagged by enraged pupils across the country, with calls to probe it amid fears that it might affect their grades.

Umalusi, the Quality Council for General and Further Education and Training has appointed a three-member panel to investigate what led to the “problematic” question to be included in the exam.

The National Senior Certificate (NSC) paper was written on 7 November 2022.

Umalusi spokesperson Biki Lepota said the panel will be chaired by former head of provincial education Penelope Vinjevold. The other members are Professor Sudan Hansraj and Professor Nic Heideman.

Hansraj is a Professor of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics in the Astrophysics Research Centre of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science.

Heideman is a Contract Lecturer in the University of Cape Town’s Mathematics department. He has taught Mathematics and Elementary Statistics at undergraduate and postgraduate levels at university.

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Panel to probe the inclusion of the question

“Specifically, the panel is tasked to investigate how the error crept in and why it was not detected between the examiners, internal and external moderators up to the printing stage. 

“In other words, the focus is on the entire value chain: all the processes that the question paper was subjected to during the stages of its development, quality assurance and printing,” said Lepota.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has urged matrics to avoid panicking and said if an error is established, the markers will be told to ignore the question.

The final report into the investigation will be submitted to Umalusi and will be publicly shared 16 January 2023, during the media briefing on the approval of the release of the 2022 examination results.

Umalusi CEO Mafu Rakometsi said the probe will not delay the release of NSC results.

“As per the approved schedule, the results will be approved on 16 January 2023 by the Executive Committee (EXCO) of Umalusi Council and the Minister of Basic Education [Angie Motshekga] will release the results to the public on 19 January 2023. Secondly, Umalusi wants to reassure the public that it will do everything humanly possible to ensure that no candidate is disadvantaged by the error in Question 5.1,” said Rakometsi.

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