How many marks can you lose in a matric maths exam if you dont own a scientific calculator

Many people have asked me why I think it is so important to put Scientific Calculators into matric (and grade 10 and 11) students’ hands. So, I decided to do a very simple experiment. Over the last 3 days I have been writing matric maths exam papers. Apart from realising that I remember very little geometry, the results speak for themselves.


I selected the 2016 final maths papers and the supplementary papers that followed them in 2017, with the expectation that the papers would be of a similar level and mark distribution, with similar questions. They were in fact very similar, with similarly asked questions and mark allocations. Which makes my results all the more frightening (or exciting – depending on how you look at it).


I wrote the 2017 supplementary exams without a calculator, and timed myself. Then to prevent memory recall I wrote the 2016 final exams and timed myself. These are the results:


No calculator


With a calculator

Paper 1 1 hour 15 minutes 1 hour 2 minutes
Paper 2 1 hour 1 minute 1 hour 1 minute

From this we can see that having a calculator shortened the amount of time spent answering the exam particularly for paper 1, where there are a lot of calculations to do. This is a 17% improvement on the amount of time spent answering the exam.  I also found that I made silly mistakes without my calculator, and had no way of checking if I was on the right track.


This led me to checking how many marks I would lose if I didn’t have a calculator. For this, I simply counted all the marks that are allocated to something that requires a calculator to work out. Here are where things turn scary:


  2017 2016
Paper 1 27 marks 18% 24 marks 16%
Paper 2 28 marks 18.7% 39 marks 26%


Look at paper 2 from 2016 again! 26% of the paper would have been lost to a student without a calculator. And lost to a student who doesn’t know how to use a calculator.

This is one of the big reasons the Future Fund was started! We wanted to give those students the opportunity to improve their marks by giving them not only the tools to achieve more, but also the knowledge to excel with their tools. We want to put 10 000 EL-W506 Scientific Calculators into the hands of students who cannot afford to buy their own calculators, and we need your help to do it!


Seartec has agreed to give CASME the calculators at cost – R200 each. These calculators normally retail between R350 and R400. This means that we need to raise R2 million in order to reach our target of 10 000 calculators. However, if we raise more than that, Seartec will continue to supply the calculators at cost until we run out of money!


So, what can you do to help?

A small donation of R20 will go a long way to raising the money we need. You can donate through Payfast, or via EFT:

BANK: Standard Bank of South Africa
BRANCH: Glenwood
BRANCH CODE: 04 25 26
ACCOUNT NUMBER: 051 193 132

REFERENCE  : Future Fund


Or through Zapper and this barcode:


Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to make a difference but want to talk to a real person first: or through our office line 011 405 7400 and ask for Tal.


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