GCSE Edexcel Maths paper: Pupils remain defiant over 'Hannah's sweets' problem

Despite students storming Twitter after the exam this year, Maths saw an increase in the proportion of entries gaining a grade C or better

Aftab Ali
Thursday 20 August 2015 13:44

‘Hannah and her sweets’ caused quite a storm this year on Twitter as GCSE pupils took to the social media site to vent their frustrations over the ‘tricky’ Edexcel Mathematics paper.

Along with more conventional maths questions, such as ‘prove that n²-n-90=0’, the puzzle involving a girl called Hannahs confectionery left many scratching their heads:

However, in the wake of GCSE results day, it has come to light that all was not lost: Mathematics saw an increase on last year in the proportion of entries gaining a grade C or better, from 62.4 per cent to 63.3 per cent.

At A*, the proportion saw a 0.7 per cent increase to 6.1 per cent, and A grades climbed 1.3 per cent to 16.5 per cent.

How the Maths paper fared overall:

The education company behind the question this morning, Pearson, reiterated that all exam papers should have a range of questions suited to a range of ability levels.

Although it admitted the question was challenging, Pearson described how it was entirely valid, and aimed to test the most able students.

The company also said it was a question aimed at students aspiring to an A* grade and tested not just arithmetic computation, but mathematical literacy and further insisted that similar questions to ‘Hannah’ have appeared in past exam papers.

Can you answer the question that stumped Maths pupils? If so, remember to show your working in the comments section:

There are n sweets in a bag. Six of the sweets are orange. The rest of the sweets are yellow.

Hannah takes a sweet from the bag. She eats the sweet. Hannah then takes at random another sweet from the bag. She eats the sweet.

The probability that Hannah eats two orange sweets is 1/3. Show that n²-n-90=0

For those who couldn’t quite get there, here’s how to solve Hannah’s sweet conundrum:

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