Thursday 27 April 2017

Students to get a say on new Project Maths course

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

SECOND-level students are to be given a say on what they think of the new way of teaching maths.

Government education advisers want to know how well it is working from the very beginning by tracking students' experiences of the radical changes involved.

Project Maths got under way in all schools this September in the hope of improving standards in the subject.

It focuses on teaching in a way that promotes understanding through using real-life examples.

Irish 15-year-olds rate only average internationally in maths, which is regarded as a cornerstone skill for jobs in the so-called smart economy, where science, technology and engineering will by key.

Project Maths is being phased in gradually and was rolled out to all first year and fifth year students this month, following an initial trial in 24 schools over the past two years.

Now, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is commissioning research to begin in schools this term.

The NCCA, which advises the Department of Education, wants to know the impact Project Maths has on motivation, learning and achievement.

Rather than looking at teaching itself or even how the students respond to it, the focus is very much on students' attitudes and how they are mastering the processes involved.

Research conducted to date in the 24 initial schools viewed Project Maths through the eyes of teachers and the various support agencies that were working with them.

Perspective

But now the NCCA wants to see it from the perspective of the teenage student. The research will continue for two years, but the NCCA has asked for a series of "mini" reports so that it can gauge and respond to emerging trends, where necessary.

The outcome of the research will allow the NCCA to see whether more support is needed and to help identify areas for future development in post-primary maths education.

The 1,800 Leaving Certificate students who studied Project Maths in the 24 schools sat the first Leaving Certificate exam in the subject this year, with some encouraging results.

Failure rates have almost halved among ordinary level students who sat a Project Maths paper.

There is also evidence that the new approach encouraged some students to raise their sights and aim for a higher-level exam. A higher proportion of Project Maths candidates (18.5pc) took higher level, as compared with 16pc of maths candidates generally.

Almost 80pc of the Project Maths candidates achieved an A, B, or C grade at higher level -- slightly better than the overall national performance. A greater percentage of candidates from the 24 schools also achieved A, B and C grades at ordinary level and foundation level than the overall national performance.

While the overall failure rate among ordinary level candidates generally was 9.8pc, within the Project Maths group it was 5.4pc on the one paper involved. At higher level, the overall failure rate was 3.7pc, and 4.8pc at Foundation Level.

The first group of Junior Cert students will sit the first exam at that level next June.

Irish Independent

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