Friday 15 December 2017

Pupils should get double points for higher level maths -- experts

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

PUPILS should get double CAO points for Leaving Certificate higher level maths, an expert group has recommended.

The effort required of students for the subject should be rewarded by all third-level institutions, the group says.

The latest call for special treatment for higher level maths arises from a symposium of academics and industry experts, organised by Trinity College Dublin (TCD).

There is growing pressure for bonus points as a way of incentivising more students to take up the subject in order to build the smart economy.

A report of the symposium referred to a practice among students to drop higher level maths in favour of other subjects, where it was easier to achieve points for college entry.

"The need to maximise points for entry to third-level courses has distorted subject choice at second level and has seriously disadvantaged higher level maths.

"The group recognises the need for additional points to reflect the workload and student effort involved in higher level maths," the report stated.

The symposium's recommendations contribute to the ongoing debate about whether bonus points should be re-introduced at third-level.

Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe has softened his opposition to the idea and is awaiting the views of a top-level group he set up to consider Ireland's only "average" national performance in maths.

The TCD symposium contributors want their recommendations considered by that group, which is due to report within a couple of months.


Higher level maths is a prerequisite for third-level study in key areas such as science, engineering and technology that will be the cornerstone of the knowledge economy.

Maths proficiency is also regarded as essential for a range of other careers where there is a growing requirement to process and analyse complex information.

A report from the Government's Innovation Taskforce this week said bonus points for maths should be introduced on a pilot basis from 2012 to help Ireland realise its prediction of 215,000 hi-tech jobs over the next decade.

The day-long National Mathematics Symposium, organised by Professor Clive Williams of the TCD Faculty of Engineering, Mathematics and Science, focused on the place of maths education in Ireland's future.

Speakers included Dr Chris Horn, co-founder of Iona Technologies, Una Halligan, chair of The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs, Paul Sweetman, director of the hi-tech employer divisions within IBEC, and Patricia Callaghan, academic secretary at TCD.

The symposium's report acknowledges the central role of maths in the recovery of the economy and the need for Ireland to improve the "average" international rating of Irish 15-year-olds in the subject.

The group also made recommendations about the qualifications and competency of maths teachers and said that support and encouragement should be given for upskilling.

The experts said unemployed engineers who wish to switch careers to become maths teachers should be encouraged, while the role of undergraduate student volunteers in secondary schools should be explored.

Irish Independent

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