Exdexcel Formula Sheet lays Pooh Traps for Further Mathematics Pupils

FP3 integration standard forms could lead unwary pupils and teachers into a Pooh Trap. The following issue arises each year as the finer points of this course get sharpened.

When consulting the Edexcel formula sheet to find the integral,

\displaystyle \int \dfrac{1}{\sqrt{a^{2}+x^{2}}} \textnormal{d}x

two anti-derivatives are given,

\textnormal{arsinh}\left(\dfrac{x}{a}\right)\ \ \ \textnormal{and}\ \ \ \ln\{x+\sqrt{x^{2}+a^{2}}\}

Some might be tempted to infer that these functions are equal, this is the Pooh Trap, because whilst they both differentiate to \dfrac{1}{\sqrt{a^{2}+x^{2}}} they are not equal.

Play with exponential functions and quadratic equations give us the logarithmic form of \textnormal{arsinh}\ x which is also represented in formula books.

\textnormal{arsinh}\ x=\ln\{x+\sqrt{x^{2}+1}\}

Then,
\textnormal{arsinh} \left(\dfrac{x}{a}\right)=\ln\left\{\dfrac{x}{a}+\sqrt{\left(\dfrac{x}{a}\right)^{2}+1}\right\}=\\\ln\left\{\dfrac{x+\sqrt{x^{2}+a^{2}}}{a}\right\}=\ln\left\{x+\sqrt{x^{2}+a^{2}}\right\}-\ln a
The two anti-derivatives differ by the constant \ln a.

In a definite integration, this constant is added and then taken away making no difference as to which anti-derivative the student uses. In a particular solution to a differential equation, the evaluation of the integral using boundary condition would lead to two different constant values.

The worse case is that a student takes the integration standard from and reads it as the logarithmic form of the inverse of \sinh x. I have seen this happen.

support for school mathematics exams

I have developed a database driven website which shares past papers, markschemes and my own ‘write outs’ for most Edexcel modules in mathematics and further mathematics:

jped Exam Bucket

I use this mostly as a resource for my own teaching; using it I can lay my hands of exam questions and solutions of different types very quickly.  My students and pupils find it useful too because it shows how to do exam questions using the techniques taught in class; there is an important difference with mark schemes here.

The UK mathematics exam system is in a state of flux at the moment.  I see this is as a great opportunity to review and refresh all my teaching material.  I look forward to generating new material to support a revised school exam system.