The Maths Problem Making Scottish Kids Cry

Students are reportedly leaving exam halls in tears over a puzzle involving a crocodile and a zebra.

Oct 12 2015, 5:01pm

Image: Shutterstock

Scottish students cannot figure out how fast a crocodile travels in water, and it's setting unprecedented low scores for math exams in the country.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), which is responsible for creating public exams in Scotland, lowered the pass mark for this year's higher maths exam to 34 percent after parents and students complained of its unusual difficulty. Last year, a score of 45 percent was needed to pass the exam, taken by S5 and S6 pupils (ages 16-18).

More than 11,000 people signed a petition demanding the organization reevaluate the exam, saying, "the general consensus is that the majority of questions were so hard the students weren't able to solve them." The description for the petition claims students were "traumatized" by the exams, some reportedly leaving the testing hall in tears. Although the entire exam was apparently more difficult than those from years past, one problem particularly stood out as unsolvable. Try for yourself:

Image: SQA

A report from the SQA found that while the entire exam was relatively difficult, the question about the crocodile directly contributed to the lower than average scores, adding that it "proved to be challenging for most candidates."

Gill Stewart, SQA Director of Qualifications Development, said the organization will factor the issue into its evaluation of exams.

"As we do every year, we consider what went well in the most recent diet, and where we need to make improvements for the future," he said. "We are committed to the continuous development and improvement of our qualifications and assessments for the benefit of all candidates."

If you, like many of the Scottish students, are experiencing "shock and devastation" at the sight of this exam question, you can watch this YouTube video that walks you through the solution.