independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Switch in maths focus at schools is 'working'

THE switch to Project Maths in second-level schools is showing positive results for students despite a shaky start, according to a series of new reports.

The studies, being published today, reveal the initiative ran into problems early on because textbooks "fell short" of what was required.

Educational publishers were told to come up with books that met the needs of the curriculum.

This is the first comprehensive overview of the impact of Project Maths since it was first rolled out in 2008.

Project Maths was introduced in response to the below-average maths performance of Irish 15-year-olds in international rankings, which was generally attributed to poor problem-solving skills.

The new focus is away from rote learning, with a more hands-on approach that also shows how the subject connects to real life.

Project Maths has been controversial from day one, with critics claiming it is dumbing down the syllabus as well as excluding key elements.

But today's reports find many positives, although students are still struggling with elements of it.

Teachers' views were canvassed last March for one of the reports, which was conducted by the Educational Research Centre in Drumcondra, Dublin.

Almost half of teachers said they didn't know if Project Maths was having a positive impact on students' learning of maths.

However, they did report positive changes, including students having a better understanding of statistics and probability, geometry and trigonometry, as well as an improvement in their ability to solve real-life problems and to work collaboratively.

In the schools where Project Maths was introduced first, teachers are using technology in the classroom to a significantly greater degree than teachers in other schools.

A separate study on student achievement and attitudes, conducted by the UK-based National Foundation for Educational Research, said there was evidence that Project Maths was moving in the right direction, but challenges remained.

Irish Independent

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