Thursday 30 March 2017

Employers favour Project Maths but teachers not sure

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Project Maths was introduced as a pilot scheme in 24 schools to give students the practical maths skills they need for the workplace.

It places particular emphasis on a hands-on understanding of the subject, encouraging students to think through problems.

For example, a class on probability could include throwing dice to see how often a double six came up.

Project Maths was hailed as the answer to relatively poor performance in standard maths by Irish students, and will eventually replace standard maths in all schools.

By OECD standards, Irish students rank as just average in standard maths.

A lack of problem-solving ability was identified as the big flaw for Irish students. It was blamed, in part, on what has become a widespread practice of rote learning, memorising answers that will get them through the test.

Another concern was the relatively poor uptake of higher-level maths among students, particularly in the Leaving Certificate.

So, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) came up with Project Maths. According to the NCCA, since maths underpins many other disciplines, a decline in mathematical knowledge and skills can affect the potential of our society for future economic growth and development.

From the beginning, there have been divided views about Project Maths, not least among maths teachers. The critics say its project-based learning approach contributes to dumbing down.


But it enjoys huge support from employers, including the big multi-nationals with a huge vested interest in ensuring Ireland produces school-leavers with the right skills for the workplace.

It will be a few years before it is fully rolled out. Junior Cert students in the Project Maths pilot sat the papers for the first time this year.

There are positives in the higher proportion of ABC grades enjoyed by Project Maths candidates at both levels, when compared with those sitting the traditional papers.

But within that, there was there is also negative of fewer achieving a coveted A grade, a turn off for the best students.

Irish Independent

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