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Author Topic: Constructing a bound reference for Further Mathematics  (Read 32827 times)  Share 

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Constructing a bound reference for Further Mathematics
« on: November 16, 2012, 11:52:57 am »
Constructing a bound reference for Further Mathematics

By Stick

As the Further Maths exams approached us this year, I noticed that a lot of people on this forum did not know how to make a bound reference, or were alternatively taking in a textbook or other commercially available text to bring into the examination room. I've decided to write this guide to demonstrate the benefits of taking the time to construct your own resource, as well as how to go about making one.

How come we're allowed a bound reference in the assessments?

Unlike Maths Methods and Specialist Maths, all assessments in Further Maths can be completed with the use of a calculator (this includes both exams). As the technology in calculators advanced, people realised they were able to store notes in them for reference during the assessments. In order to make sure everyone was on a fair and level playing field and that no one was disadvantaged by the capabilities of their calculator, VCAA adapted their stipulations and allowed the use of a bound reference during all technology-based Maths assessments.

What are the exact rules in regards to the bound reference?

VCAA's rules and regulations (including the use of bound references - pg6) can be found here.

In summary, the book mustn't be too big, have anything that can be detached (and therefore passed onto another student) and only have one spine (so there's no sticking two books together, unless you are able to join them in such a way that they only have one spine). These rules exist for obvious reasons.

Do I really need the bound reference?

Alright, so now I'm going to address two common misconceptions people make in defiance to the use of a bound reference:

1. If you've studied hard enough, you shouldn't need to use a bound reference in the exams.

This is highly dependent on the individual and if you have studied hard enough, you probably won't need to consult your bound reference. But let me ask you this: if you are allowed to take one in, why would you risk not having that safety net there? A bound reference, like the GAT, can only help you, not hinder your performance.

2. Making your own bound reference is a waste of time, especially when your textbook covers everything you need to know.

Sure, your textbook would cover everything you need to know. But is it concise? Nope. Does it specifically address your exact difficulties using language that you can understand? Probably not. This is where the bound reference truly comes into its own. If you construct your own resource, you are in charge of exactly what goes in there and how the content is expressed and displayed, meaning you're able to get a lot more out of your reference if you get stuck.

I must also say that you would be very silly not to bring in a bound reference into the Further Maths exams specifically because one item which essentially everyone would require is the bell curve with the standard deviation percentages on it. Unless you manage to memorise it (even I didn't and I consulted that diagram a lot), you are going to have to take in at least a page to get by.

Finally, a lot of people seem to misunderstand the role of the bound reference in Maths. The way I used it and the way I encourage you to use it is as a revision tool. You don't want to be wasting precious time during the exam flicking through notes if you don't have to and the way I suggest you construct your bound reference ensures you understand all the content in the study design.

Alright, I get it. Making a bound reference is actually more important than it initially seems. Now how do I make a good one?

Firstly, you'll need an exercise book. I used a 96 page book and this was enough for me, but you might have very different needs. I wouldn't advise going any smaller than 96 pages, but feel free to buy a larger exercise book if necessary. Remember, you can always have too many pages that are left unused, but you're in a bit of strife if you run out of pages!

Now this is the most important part: you need to start constructing your bound reference from the very first lesson. That's why I'm posting this now, in case you're wondering why I'm writing up a guide just after the exams have finished. When September finally arrived and it was time to start revising for exams, a lot of students in my class had to relearn a lot of the content from the start of the year when constructing their bound reference. By starting your bound reference early on, keeping content fresh is much easier and it means you'll be ready to jump into trial exams fairly quickly. Similarly, a lot of students wasted much of their revision time for the SACs by compiling notes, rather than completing practice questions. Stay on top of things from the beginning, rather than letting it catch up with you later on.

Now that that's all clear, I can get on to how to construct an effective bound reference. After you've completed your homework each night, get out your bound reference and rule a vertical line down the middle of each page. The left side is your theory side and the right side is your 'arithmetic' side. First, write down the theory notes you copied down in class as well as any additional theory notes from the textbook in the left column. Then, in the right column, copy out a more difficult homework question and work it out. Go back to your left side and carefully annotate each working step by writing worded instructions. There's no point only having a bunch of numbers in there because you won't have a clue of what's going on when you revisit it later.

As you come across other tricky questions, add them in as well and complete in the same fashion. Once you have finished a module, leave a couple of blank pages before you start writing about the next module. I say this because when you start revising for the exams you will come across more tricky questions and you'll want to add them in their relevant section. You're not allowed to stick in post-it notes, but you can easily flick between modules by cutting alternate corners for each section. By the end of the year, you will have a simple, yet detailed, bound reference that has the potential to get you out of trouble if you get stuck on an exam question because you will have all the information you could possibly need.

As you can see, this requires you to be working consistently on your bound reference throughout the year, but by taking the time to make these notes regularly, you are consolidating your knowledge and will be less likely to forget things. Even if you do forget something, you'll be able to 'reteach yourself' very quickly by simply reading your bound reference. This is the main purpose of the bound reference - being a safety net in the exams just happens to be an added bonus. Any bound reference made at the end of the year would not delve into this much detail, yet as you have constructed your own set of notes, you should be very familiar with the order and content of your bound reference.

That looks like an awful lot of time and effort. How long does it take each night?

You'll find that the Further Maths course actually doesn't contain a lot of content and you won't receive as much homework as you do with other subjects. On top of about 30 minutes of set homework each night, making the set of notes shouldn't take longer than about 15 minutes if you keep on top of it from the start. It becomes very difficult and time consuming, however, to make such comprehensive notes later on, so I cannot urge you enough to be organised.

Does this method really work?

Well, it worked for me. I basically compiled examples of every single little trick VCAA could possibly throw at me along with detailed worked solutions which I could quickly grasp during an assessment if need be.

Out of curiosity, how often did you use your bound reference?

In the core SAC, a fair amount. This SAC is quite long (usually spread over several lessons) and part of it involves choosing ways to display given data. Otherwise, it usually sat closed on the desk unless I had to use the bell curve standard deviation percentages.

What?! All that work and you hardly used it?!

As I've said, I used my bound reference to consolidate my knowledge so that it remained fresh. However, I knew that if I got into strife that there would be a related question in there, along with written steps that could get me out of trouble.

In summary:

- Understand the purpose of your bound reference. While it is there if you get stuck, its primary role is to consolidate and revise knowledge.
- Don't slack off. If you work on it a little bit each night, this is very manageable to do. Remember, the more effort you put in, the more beneficial it will be for you.
- Know your bound reference well. It will be more concise than a textbook, but you don't want to be wasting time flicking through pages. Hopefully you will know it like the back of your hand, considering you've been working on it throughout the year.
- Use your bound reference to store difficult textbook and exam questions alike but ensure you maintain appropriate formatting that allows you to understand your notes later on.

I know it seems very ambitious, but give it a go and I'm sure you will not regret it. Please feel free to ask me any questions regarding Further Mathematics. :)

Disclaimer: While this might be relevant for Methods and Specialist bound references, I do not advise you to use this method in these instances. A slightly different technique is used and I intend to write about that at the end of next year.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2012, 09:13:40 pm by Stick »
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