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Printer’s devil in math paper

Students writing their Madhyamik math paper in Bengali wasted precious time trying to answer two questions with “printing mistakes”.

The questions — 9(a) and 14(a) — carried 3 marks each. State secondary education board president Chaitali Datta, who referred to the errors as “printing mistakes”, said the students would be awarded full marks if they have applied the “right theory” in trying to solve the two problems.

There were no errors in the versions of the paper in English, Hindi and other languages. “More than 70 per cent of the around 10.6 lakh examinees wrote their papers in Bengali,” pointed out a teacher of a prominent city-based school.

Question 9(a) asked the students to prove applying the variation theory that eight solid spheres, each of 7cm “radius”, can be made by melting a solid sphere of 14cm diameter.

“Instead of ‘7cm radius”, it should have been ‘7cm diameter’. The question is wrong. No matter how you try, you can’t solve the problem,” said a math teacher of a reputable school.

The students were confused by question 14(a) as it mentioned the volume of a pyramid in cubic metre while the measurement of its base was given in centimetre. “Strictly speaking, the question is not wrong, but the difference in the units has made it difficult for Class X students,” the teacher said.

The board president’s assurance notwithstanding, teachers and guardians demanded that the paper-setters and moderators concerned be penalised for the mistakes.

After the paper-setters submit the questions, the moderators go through them. “The question paper of every subject is proofread five-six times. It is strange that the mistakes crept in despite such precautions,” said a secondary education board official.

There are rules to punish paper-setters and moderators for mistakes in question papers. “The board should enforce the rules and punish those responsible for the errors. The authorities should show no leniency in the matter as the future of the students is at stake,” the official said.

Board chief Datta said: “We will discuss the matter of punishing the moderators and take appropriate action if they are found guilty.”

Tuesday was the last day of Madhyamik 2012.