Have you ever been told – ‘you had better learn to work that out yourself!’ or ‘you should really remember your timetables by now; you know that you will not always have the luxury of having a calculator with you twenty-four-seven, right’!? And now you are probably thinking, jokes on you, what else do I have the calculator app on my phone for? Calculators have really become a massive part of our daily lives, whether we realise it or not. You could almost say we have become reliant on them. And why not, with their ease and accessibility? So today, we are going to get into if we can use them where they would arguably help us out the most, your upcoming NCEA Level 1 Maths exam.

Hold up, are you all set for your NCEA Level 1 Mathematic exams and internals before we get started, though? If you still have questions like how long is the exam, how many credits do you need or why take NCEA Maths in general, check out some of our other articles to put your mind at ease.

Done that? Good. Now, let us cut to the chase. So...can you take in a calculator? Basically, yes, but also no. You are allowed the calculator in your exam, but not for one standard. That is your external 91027, where you have to apply algebraic procedures in solving problems. Ah, we can hear your internal dread from here. Fear not though, the team at Superprofs are here to the rescue. Let us help you breathe easier by offering an alternate perspective. No calculator? That pretty much means you are going to get super easy to work out numbers and simple fractions, making it all, well, not so bad after all. Also, with this in mind, may we present to you, another huge clue. If you do end up with something super complex that looks like one of Einstein’s doodles, well that probably means you need to revisit your work and correct it accordingly. Plus, we are here to go through standard 91027 and do all in our power so that you can go into the exam confidently knowing you will absolutely smash it. Side note real quick though, you can, however, use a calculator for your external standards 91028, 91031, and 91037. A graphic calculator does prove an advantage for your external standard 91027. But back to the main reason you clicked on this article. So with this bad boy 91027 not allowing us to take a calculator in, let us get into how to tackle it to the best of our ability, shall we?

Are calculators allowed in the NCEA Maths exam?
Are calculators allowed in the NCEA Maths exam? Image: Unsplash
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What’s the Structure of my NCEA Level 1 Maths Exam? 

Like all your NCEA Level 1 Maths exams, standard 91027 is laid out in a similar format. Your exam will have three questions, where you do have the hidden opportunities to score those Merit and Excellence grades. Markers do want to see you flexing your ability to really show your evidence when you are investigating a situation so that you are able to make a generalisation or provide proof for a given outcome. When we mention investigation, this could be this may involve the investigation of a numerical, algebraic, statistical, or geometric relationship, in the context of a word problem. We do know that for numerical dominated situations, this will often translate to you using an algebraic generalisation.

So why are you not able to use a calculator? Basically, because NCEA Level 1 Maths wants to make sure that you are able to show your understanding of the mathematical concepts themselves, as opposed to simply writing what you see on the calculator on the paper. Rather, we want to see you explain what you are calculating, aka show your workings, logically and clearly. Oftentimes, this is what markers are looking for regarding those higher Merit and Excellence grades. A guess and see approach will not really be the vibe here. Showing your workings also demonstrates your rationale to markers, which in many cases grants them extra grace for overlooking minor errors.

You can still get it done without a calculator!
You can still get it done without a calculator! Image: Unsplash

91027 Apply algebraic procedures in solving problems

With those simple numbers we mentioned earlier, this means that your answers are expected to be in the simplest algebraic form. As for fractions, you can feel free to leave these in fractional form, even if they do contain π. Markers do want to make sure that you have a good understanding of basic mathematical language, though.

Other mathematical concepts may make a guest appearance, so be sure to brush up on – or at least have a rudimentary understanding of - other concepts such as angles of simple geometric shapes, or Pythagoras. Something that does have a high likelihood of popping up, however, is graphing, as this is quite often linked with algebra. Also, be sure to brush up on the formulas for measurements of the common geometrical shapes, such as triangles and rectangles. Formulas should be provided for the more complex shapes.

For any word problems, make sure you write out the equations relating to the situation and use these consistently in your process of solving the problem at hand.

We can help you make sense of it all at Superprofs
The team at Superprofs are here to help. Source: Allvisionn

Where Can I Get Additional Help? 

Still got burning questions? We have plenty of articles relating to NCEA Level 1 Maths itself to help you with just that! For an overall introduction to NCEA Level 1 Maths including internals, we've got you covered. We also break down your externals structures so you know what to expect, as well as how to best pass these. Finally, we go into how many credits you need to score overall, and why studying NCEA Maths Level 1 actually matters!

For further details on this, feel free to check out the Assessment Specifications on the official NZQA website.

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