Joe’s Jotter – Should I Persevere with Higher Level Maths in 2023?

 

More students over the last few years have taken on the task that is Leaving Cert Higher Maths. In June 2022, out of the 57,347 who sat a Leaving Certificate Mathematics Paper, 21,265 of them opted for higher level (37%). Even though the bonus points are very enticing, students need to be careful and be fully aware of what exactly they are embarking on. In my experience, there is a lingering doubt among many 5th and 6th years about being able to tackle higher Maths. Scoring low grades in class tests doesn’t really do much for confidence, but it doesn’t automatically mean you should change level. The question is: Should you remain battling higher level Maths or is it worth the time and effort at all?

This article should reassure those suitable for higher (those who fight the good fight day after day) that they can in fact achieve what they are aiming for. Each year, deciding Maths levels is a tricky issue for students and involves many considerations. It is made even more complex in this subject with the bonus points at play. For those of you who are unsure about higher Maths, it may be worth applying some logic to any inclination to switch. As well you know, us ‘Maths creatures’ are very logical beings lol.  I find that logic is more factual and definite in making decisions like this. It may be more sensible to apply a touch of it here, rather than just using pure emotion. Don’t get me wrong: your gut feeling is important too; but read on to understand what I mean…

I Can Take on this Challenge

Firstly, there is a misconception out there that if you fail Maths, you fail the full Leaving Cert. This isn’t true at all. The two worst things that can happen if you are unsuccessful in Maths is that you will have that low grade for Maths on your CV. Or, if a certain grade in Maths is a requirement for a specific third level course, you will not be offered that course no matter how many points you get; that’s as bad as it gets.

I think having a good Interest in Maths is a great starting point in taking on higher level. Enthusiasm for this subject will go a long way to achieving your desired goal in it.  Students, do you secretly enjoy the challenge of those long practical questions in double classes, or do you dread the thoughts of Maths homework each night? Do you like working with numbers or are you mis-understanding the majority of your teachers’ methods? These are some initial questions to ponder.

Personally, I feel that students know in their heart what level Maths they should be doing. If you feel in your gut that you are lost in class or if it is taking too much time away from other subjects; then reflect and talk it through now. If your anxiety about the subject is getting too high and your grades are dropping, it may be time to move. Definitely, if you have struggled to grasp much of the basic Algebra in fourth and fifth year, it may be a sign that the standard is too difficult for you. However, remember also that there are so many varied topics in Maths, and you may have a flair for some and no real interest in others. Very few of us are good at everything, even the best of the best.

Head Above Water

I always feel that students scoring above thirty percent (approximately) in Class, Christmas and Mock examinations should be able to raise their game to get over the line in the State exams. Students scoring consistently below thirty need to look into their heart and start conversations with their teachers, parents and indeed themselves about what to do. It is important not to remain in the class for the sole reason that your parents want you to do honours. Only you know the content of the Maths course you are studying and how it is going for you. Many students and even some Teachers place too much emphasis on the spring Mock result. I disagree with this premise and prefer to look at the bigger picture. From a percentage assessment point of view, I feel you need to look at a combination of exams sat (even fifth year ones) and indeed your Junior Cycle grade. Keep in mind that the upcoming mock examinations in springtime tests topics across the complete course at a time when you haven’t fully completed it yet.

Is there a Template for Staying or Going?

My intention in this article isn’t to outline a template for who should remain or drop down, as there are a lot of factors that need to be considered. I am simply encouraging you to reflect and balance the argument for yourselves. Over the years, I have taught a substantial number of students who I considered borderline higher level students. Many of them remained at higher and actually ended up outperforming those I perceived as rock solid higher level candidates. Maybe these students felt like they needed to work harder and hence prepared better consequently. There is a lesson in this. American Basketball player Kevin Durant once said, ‘Hard work always beats Talent when Talent doesn’t work hard enough’. The statistics also stack in your favour.  In June 2022, 98.4% of students who attempted higher level Maths got a H6 grade or above and therefore picked up the 25 bonus points. That is extremely high!

In general, your teacher won’t put you too far wrong when decision time arrives. By the middle of sixth year, they know your strengths, weaknesses, and the limits of your capabilities, assuming they have taught you since the start of fifth year. Timing is also an issue. If you do need to drop down to Ordinary level, I wouldn’t leave it any later than Easter. This gives you some time over the Easter holidays, and when you return for the final term, to get familiar with the Ordinary level standard and format of the exam paper. Changing levels on the day of the exam is totally unadvised and should not be considered.

Factors That Will Guide Level Choice

In summary, think about and discuss the below factors in detail with your parents and teachers before attempting to change levels in any subject. Along with mock performance, here are the other factors to consider when making decisions regarding level changes:

  • Your teacher’s opinion.
  • Your ‘potential’ points change.
  • Your Junior Cycle performance.
  • Your attendance in class thus far.
  • Your ‘working relationship’ with your teacher.
  • How much you enjoy studying the subject.
  • Results in previous Christmas and Summer tests.
  • How much of the course you have done thus far.
  • Your own gut feeling and attitude towards the subject.
  • Results in all your class tests since the beginning of fifth year.
  • The amount of effort you are putting into this subject balanced against others.
  • Minimum entry requirements for third level (e.g. a H6 in Maths maybe?).

Before making your final decision, take out a piece of paper and write down all the pros and cons of remaining at higher level or changing.  On the back of the sheet, write a few paragraphs on how you are actually feeling about it right now. Keeping the above list of factors in mind, the answer you are searching for should appear somewhere within these pages as your thoughts and feelings stream out. Use these thoughts to answer your own doubts and plough on from there. Contact me if I can advise you in any way. Joe

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes for 5th & 6th Year (Leaving Certificate Students) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books for all students can be found via the links:

ACE Maths Tuition Classes: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

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Joe’s Jotter: Why Secondary School Students Should Eat Breakfast

Students, you have heard your parents and other adults say many times that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” and that indeed is a hard fact. A decent breakfast will give you the energy to start each morning, help balance your weight and allow you to complete the tasks and challenges you face every day more efficiently. Breakfast is equally as important for children as it is for adults and a healthy one is a vital part of our health and wellbeing. The importance of breakfast as the first meal of the day has been scientifically proven; so in fact your parents are actually correct.

Imagine food is the fuel for your daily activity. During exams and indeed school time, your body will demand good quality clean fuel and regular refuelling in order to nourish itself and maximise your concentration, starting first thing in the morning. I’ve had my own experience in relation to eating breakfast. In my early teaching career, I didn’t eat anything in the morning until my first small break (eleven o’clock). During the early morning, I found myself regularly on edge and low in energy. I noticed that just before this break, my body was actually craving food and my focus had diminished. Basically, what was happening was my blood sugar levels had dropped too low and my concentration was poor during my first two hours teaching each day and I knew it.

Good Morning Habits

As an experienced teacher, I am familiar with students’ poor morning eating habits. Many students don’t feel like food, or their stomach is unsettled early in the morning. Students who eat late at night may be getting messages from their stomach that their body is still living off those energy stores. That’s OK. But students: ‘Please just eat something’, no matter how small, to kick-start your system again. If you think about it logically, your body has not fuelled up for eight to ten hours during the night, so denying it any longer makes no sense at all, especially from a blood sugar and energy point of view.

There are hundreds of good breakfast options that aren’t that time consuming to prepare. These include Smoothies containing fruit, plain yoghurt or chopped fruit with whole grain cereals and milk. A mixture like crushed nuts, a small dollop of organic honey and plain yoghurt can be quickly made and eaten. Homemade granola bars are great for when you’re on the go and better than the sugar-packed store-bought ones. Get your Parents to make you a batch or have a go yourself for the craic.

Personally, I would recommend the following foods for breakfast: Oats, Muesli, Grapefruit, Watermelon, Greek yoghurt, Smoothies, Wholemeal bread, Scrambled eggs, Bananas, Low sugar cereal, Actimel, Low sugar orange juice and Low sugar multivitamin juice. If there are healthy wholesome foods you find hard to consume for breakfast, put other foods on top so that their unpalatable taste is masked. An example of this is to put bananas, fruit, yoghurt, or honey on your porridge (cooked oats). I have found that my performance, energy, and concentration has improved greatly in school during the day now that I have introduced porridge into my diet. I recommend you try it for yourselves.

Your Role as Parents

Parents, if your child skips breakfast before school, they are more likely to be tired throughout the day and will have reduced concentration levels. Preparing and encouraging them to consume a breakfast that is packed full of fibre, carbohydrates, grains, and protein will help boost concentration levels, improve memory, and will stop complaints of hunger as the morning progresses. If breakfast is a busy time of day in your house, then feeding your children what they need quickly might be a daunting experience, but it doesn’t have to be. By stocking up on all the ingredients you need beforehand, you can deliver quick healthy breakfasts that they will enjoy. By preparing breakfast the night before, or getting them to prepare their own, you can cut wasted time in the morning. Avoiding the ‘Coco Pops’ style breakfast cereal is certainly one that’s recommended.

Six Compelling Reasons to Eat Breakfast

 

  1. The Gap: Breakfast is the first meal you eat after sleeping through the night. You may not feel it, but your body is actually craving food and needs refuelling.
  2. Fighting Sickness: Skipping breakfast weakens your immune system and may increase your chances of becoming ill quicker as a result.
  3. Concentration Levels: A correlation between concentration and our ability to perform tasks has been proven through research. Food is known to enhance concentration.
  4. Serotonin Boost: Eating breakfast boosts levels of serotonin (a mood enhancer chemical that helps you feel better and maintain stability throughout the day).
  5. Increased Variety: Breakfast foods like whole grain cereals, eggs and porridge contain plenty of vitamins, minerals, and fibre, and add great variety to your diet.
  6. Good Start: A scheduled healthy breakfast will help your body run like a well-oiled machine all day. It is the best start to any busy day and heaven knows we need that now in 2022. Joe.

More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

ACE Maths Classes: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

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Joe’s Jotter: Summer Nutrition Suggestions for Students

Summer is a time for rest and reflection. As a student, do you ever think about your diet and the foods you intake? Did you go overboard on the junk food this summer? Here are some pointers to read and have a think about as we approach the last month of summer 2021. This article is not to lecture you, but rather to make you think about little adjustments you could make to ensure you are giving you body and mind the best possible chance going forward.

1. Target One or Two Improvements

Rather than aiming to overhaul your diet and what you eat, start by targeting one specific area for improvement before the new academic year kicks off. This should be something that is most relevant to you and is changeable, for example, breakfast. If you are someone who doesn’t eat a healthy breakfast, you could start by prioritising that. As you become more consistent with that meal, you can work on another mini target like eating more fruit and vegetables or reducing sugary drinks. It is important to be realistic about what you wish to achieve and give yourself a reasonable time period to achieve it.

Progress on any changes made should be judged over several weeks, rather than days, as new habits take time to form. Get a shopping list together and ask your parents to stock the fridge and freezer with specific foods. The more whole and natural a food is, the better. For example, a beetroot unpackaged and untouched is far better than a jar of sliced beetroot. You get the idea. If you can do a bit of cooking for yourself, you will never go hungry. Remember that if you fall off the horse with any type of plan, just get back on and go again! In a world of many distractions, any minor improvements to the quality of food you consume will facilitate improved concentration. We all could do with that. More importantly for you, this will allow you to make a fast start in September.

You won’t go to far wrong by increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables for the remainder of the holidays. This will help you build up resistance to any bugs flying around come autumn time. Eating as many different coloured vegetables as you can is the secret to providing plenty of nutrients for your body. If you do opt for a takeaway, cook some homemade vegetables (before it arrives) to eat on the side. This balances the books a little and ensures you are still getting important vitamins and minerals.

2. Hydrate Very Well

Firstly, it’s important to know that your weight affects your fluid needs. You should drink 35ml of fluid daily for every kilogramme you weigh. For example, a 70kg (11 stone approx.) person should drink 2.45 litres per day. The recommended daily amount of water for a teenager is two litres which works out at eight to ten glasses; however, I would recommend that you drink more if the day is particularly hot or if you are exercising. In athletes, research has shown that a two percent drop in hydration can lead to thirty percent drop in performance.

Water is the best form of hydration, and the benefits of water are well documented. Water increases energy, flushes out toxins, improves skin complexion, boosts the immune system, prevents cramps, balances the body’s fluids, promotes digestion, and eliminates waste products. Having all these benefits working in your favour around is only going to help you maintain good health. Low sugar fruit juices, like cranberry, blueberry and apple are good for hydration and contain enzymes and vitamins. Fizzy drinks will also hydrate but again are to be avoided due to their high sugar content. Other foods to improve hydration include Cucumbers, Watermelon, Pineapple, Tomatoes, Blueberries, Pear, Grapefruit, Lettuce, and Melon. Ultimately, sipping on water throughout the day is the best way to avoid dehydration.

If you get dehydrated, your concentration for revision at home or performance on the sports field will suffer. In essence, it affects everything. Here are four tell-tale signs that your body is dehydrated and that you need to drink more fluids:

  • Dry mouth and skin: If you are dehydrated, you may not be producing enough saliva, which will lead to a build-up of bacteria in the mouth. Acne may also occur.
  • Food cravings: The body confuses thirst for hunger sometimes. Drinking water will reduce these cravings, as it is water your body often requires not food.
  • Headaches, tiredness, and confusion: A lack of water can lead to headaches during the day. This makes it very difficult to operate to your maximum capacity. Ask yourself the question, “Am I constantly tired?” If the answer is yes, you might just be lacking water in your diet. The process of learning and retaining information has been proven to be more difficult if your body lacks fluid.
  • Urine colour: The colour of urine should be light if you are well hydrated. The average hydrated person goes to the toilet to excrete urine six to eight times daily.

To combat dehydration, bring a bottle of water with you wherever you go. Keeping bottles of cold water in the fridge at home will make it easy to ‘grab and go’ and you can sip away on it as the day progresses. It is important to note that if you feel some of the above listed symptoms, your body may already be dehydrated. Prevention is better than cure in this case. Small changes, like these, can end up making a big difference. Joe.

To view last weeks feature article on ‘Assessing your Revision Achievements in 2020/21’, click here.

More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022), ACE Maths Assessments, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

W: https://www.acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition
FB: http://www.facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

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