Thursday 30 March 2017

Bonus points for and against:


  • Given the central importance of mathematics to the smart economy agenda, a national effort needs to be made to incentivise the take-up of higher-level maths.
  • If students are moving to ordinary level on the basis of workload -- because they can more easily score higher points in other subjects -- the availability of extra points for higher-level maths might encourage them to sit the subject.
  • If students already perceive that higher-level maths is difficult, the availability of extra points might reward them for the perceived extra workload.
  • Higher-level maths is generally viewed as being significantly more demanding than honours level in other subjects. It makes sense to compensate for this differential through the award of bonus points.
  • While 'Project Maths' should improve take up at higher level, this is a long-term initiative. There is need for urgent action to immediately improve the supply of students with higher-level maths.


  • There is no evidence that the availability of bonus points attracts higher participation.
  • The existing courses for which bonus points are available -- including all courses at UL and some courses at DIT -- do not have a higher rate of application from higher-level students, nor do they have a higher number of applicants than courses in the same disciplines where the bonus is not available.
  • When bonus points for higher-level maths were removed on foot of curriculum reform in 1993, participation in the subject at higher-level actually increased.
  • There is a danger that bonus points could have the opposite effect to that intended and reinforce the view that honours-level maths is difficult.
  • The Points Commission has argued against bonus points on the basis that it would lead to distortions in provision, as well as in student choice, and would be inequitable for those for whose schools do not offer maths at higher level.
  • In 2009, 79 schools had no higher-level candidates sitting mathematics in the Leaving Certificate.
  • Bonus points could have unintended consequences. Higher points could enable more students to take up non-science and non-maths courses. Points inflation could also lead to the displacement of students who take ordinary level in maths on courses that do not require a high mathematics content.

Irish Independent

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