GCSE ‘impossible’ maths question leaves students in despair. Can you figure it out?

GCSE examiners have been accused of being “masochists” for posing a maths question that students claimed was “impossible”.

Thousands of 16-year-olds across England took the exam last week, but were infuriated by a painfully difficult question that many felt was hopeless. They had to calculate the area of ​​a shaded region on a diagram showing three overlapping circles with a clue, the radius of the circles. They had to give their answers in terms of pi.

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But the five-point question on Edexcel’s GCSE exam stumped many students. And even math graduates and physicists got in trouble when it was later posted on social media alongside teen complaints.

The question said: “The diagram is made up of three circles, each with a radius of 4 cm. The centers of the circles are A, B, C such that ABC is a straight line. Calculate the total area of ​​the two shaded regions . Give your answer in terms of pi.”

Part of the maths question that stumped GCSE students

A frustrated student wrote: “Sorry #EdexcelMaths but what was the last question?” Another said: He said they spent “20 minutes… just looking at the last question.” One Twitter user responded by saying, “It doesn’t look too bad, but under exam conditions with limited time and stress, it’s impossible.”

A doctoral student in theoretical physics at Durham University said that trying to find the answer simply using GCSE knowledge “blew me away”. Jack Griffiths added: “I resorted to polar coordinates and calculus. I hope the marking scheme has this as an allowed method.”

Another physicist, who has a BA and PhD from Manchester and Edinburgh Universities, wrote: “Year 11 boys have had a very disrupted schooling due to the pandemic and have worked as hard as the first year in 3 years to perform. the proper exams. And some masochists The examiner thinks it’s a good idea to give them a motivational boost by asking nearly impossible-to-answer questions.”

Math student Harry Surplus tried to answer it
Math student Harry Surplus tried to answer it

A University of Manchester maths student tried to figure it out, admitting that it was “difficult” and that he had to “spend some time figuring out where to start”. Posting his solution, Harry Surplus wrote: “BSc Maths sophomores answer Edexcel GCSE Maths Higher Paper 1 last question. Difficult question, even had to spend some time figuring out where to start. How many points was it worth?” the sorrow?” any?”

This year marks the first time in two years that students have formally sat exams at the national level due to the disruption caused by the Covid pandemic and lockdowns.

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