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How to pass Year 12 Maths Methods

Year 12 is a big year for many. The final year of high school can be filled with anxieties, uncertainty and those dreaded end-of-year exams. But there are things you can do along the way to help relieve some of the end-of-year pressures and ace Year 12.

We spoke with Mr Brenden Morris, Year 12 Maths teacher and Head of Mathematics at The Knox School in Wantirna South. Mr Morris was eager to share advice and insider tips to ensure Year 12 Maths Methods students head into final exams feeling prepared and confident.

Studying throughout the year

According to Morris, every bit of sound advice for doing well in Mathematical methods will come down to two key things: practise and seeking assistance. ‘The course will run at a fast pace and is very sequential, so falling behind or failing to grasp an important concept will make it difficult to keep up,’ he explains.

He advises to create a resource book very early, and update it as you go, straight after classes if possible. ‘Your resource book could include examples of tricky problems, with detailed solutions, hopefully annotated with notes that would guide you later on in the reasoning behind the steps you have taken, or things to be careful of,’ Morris says.

Morris adds that when organising your study sessions, returning to topics regularly can also help students feel on top of the Maths unit. Regular homework and working on recently learned concepts, as well as incorporating revision from earlier in the year can all help students feel confident.

Key areas of understanding

Morris highlights these main areas of knowledge as crucial when studying Year 12 Maths Methods:

  • Basic algebra – the ability to simplify and factorise a variety of families of expressions, to know techniques for solving equations. Most importantly, the need to set out solutions in a logical manner and follow conventions of the course in your solutions.
  • The ability to simplify expressions and solve equations that involve polynomial functions, rational functions, exponential and logarithmic functions, and circular functions. Also, the ability to apply differentiation and anti-differentiation to many of these functions.
  • Drawing clear graphs and presenting workings and answers logically. Always include details like showing coordinates of end-points and axes intercepts with exact values over a correct domain. Refer to examples in your textbook for guidance on how to set out your solution.

Utilising a CAS calculator. Many questions may be solved using your calculator and sometimes the first step to understanding an application question is to use your calculator to produce the appropriate graph.

'The course will run at a fast pace and is very sequential, so falling behind or failing to grasp an important concept will make it difficult to keep up.'

Mr Brenden Morris,
Head of Mathematics, Knox School

As exams approach

Morris’ tips for exam prep? Past VCAA exams and trial exams! ‘The course changed a little from 2016 onwards, so be aware if you are doing older VCAA or trial exams that there might be a few differences between the older course and the current course, but most of the content is unchanged,’ he warns.

Morris explains that the purpose of practice exams is two-fold: to confirm what you know and to discover what needs attention. He advises going through the answers on the VCAA website Examiner’s Reports. ‘They often point out common errors, be aware of these. Where you find questions that many students found challenging, ensure you have the skills to answer these,’ he says.

When doing these practice exams, if you find a concept that needs more work, address the issue, instead of just moving onto the next practice exam. ‘Find the area in your textbook and review the examples and try some problems.  If a practice exam shows you some weaknesses, don’t try the next practise exam until you have addressed them,’ Morris says.

Tips to test your knowledge

Morris was quick to point out an obvious yet crucial tip for testing yourself during study routines: ensure you do the work that teachers set from your textbook! ‘Although obvious, doing problems very soon after exploring ideas in class can be helpful,’ he explains.

Also, when trying to study more effectively for exams, consider a second textbook of “exam practice” questions as a secondary resource.  ‘Different textbooks often have different ways of explaining an idea, and the extra questions can help you to revise and confirm your understanding,’ he says.

What if I need support? 

Morris offered these avenues for students who require support throughout the year:

  • Your teacher. Play your part in developing a healthy working relationship with your teacher and ensure you ask for clarification quickly if you’re finding a concept challenging. Ensure you ask ‘why’ about the first step that isn’t perfectly clear and keep asking until you get it – it can be difficult to catch up if you fall behind.
  • Study groups. Students often underestimate how useful it can be to work through problems as part of a team.
  • Online support. Many textbooks offer videos or other items that might help you to explore a challenging concept. You might even find assistance through a YouTube or other website search. But be wary: make sure you look at what you find with a critical eye.

Morris’ final words of wisdom for Year 12 students? ‘Plan your revision process early, write out a plan and do your best to stick to it.’ With so many subjects to cover, these tips are practical and useful to add to a regular study routine to feel confident for those final exams.

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