Thursday 30 October 2014

New maths syllabus not adding up

Published 09/08/2012 | 05:00

CALLS for a new approach to the controversial Project Maths came last night after a survey found that more than half of teachers believe the new syllabus -- at least on its own -- will not improve results.

Teachers say industry must play its part by explaining to students how, in real-life, they will apply what they are learning.

Engineers Ireland, which conducted the survey among maths teachers, has called on industry to act and do everything it can to support the work of teachers.

The Government and industry are relying on Project Maths to raise the below-average performance of Irish teenagers in maths, when compared with other developed countries.

The survey of 253 members of the Irish Maths Teachers Association (IMTA), found that 57pc of maths teachers believed that Project Maths would not improve achievement, while 77pc said students would benefit from visiting industry to see real-life applications of maths.

Project Maths moves the teaching of the subject from a traditional teacher-led "talk and chalk" approach to one where the students do the thinking for themselves.

Rather than telling students what to do and how to do it, teachers act as facilitators and students are required to take a hands-on approach and work out problems for themselves.

For instance, a class on probability could involve pupils tossing coins to see how many times heads comes up and using the information they gather to draw conclusions.

Enthusiasm

Engineers Ireland is a supporter of the new syllabus, but director general John Power said that the fact that so many maths teachers felt Project Maths, at least on its own, may not improve student achievement was something that needed to be addressed.

"A huge focus has been put on improving maths results amongst our students.

"For the new Project Maths curriculum to receive such little enthusiasm from our maths educators is a concern".

Mr Power said they must be "realistic" because "the Government has little money to spend".

Engineers Ireland is already supporting a number of initiatives to improve maths education and Mr Power said it also backed the idea of visits to industry by pupils.

IMTA chairperson Dominic Guinan said he was not surprised by the results of the survey, which was the first of its kind.

He said he was encouraged that, at this stage, 43pc of teachers believed that Project Maths would improve maths.

Mr Guinan acknowledged that there had been a lot of criticism of the Project Maths syllabus -- from within the maths community -- but said there was still some "tweaking" to be done in relation to the course content.

Irish Independent

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