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Maths teaching doesn't add up

IT is impossible to escape the conclusion that the education of our young people is woefully inadequate, particularly in the mathematics-reliant disciplines that politicians like to think will create a "smart" economy.

A study by the Higher Education Authority into how third-level students progress through college has shown that "there is a serious mismatch between the skills required to successfully undertake a higher education course in science and technology with the competence of students enrolling on such courses".

Students with poor Leaving Cert maths results are the most likely to drop out of a science or technology course.

And the figures show that this is happening on a scale that is cause for concern.

For example, 27 out of every 100 first-year students fail to progress in computer science as against two out of every 100 in medicine.

It seems logical that a student with a yen for physics or computer science, rather than literature or history, would also have a natural bent for maths that would lead to a good result in Leaving Cert maths and a sound basis for college studies.

The fact that such students are dropping out of college because their maths is inadequate can mean only one thing.

It is further evidence that maths teaching at secondary level is not good enough. A great number of maths teachers are not good enough.

And it is not good enough that the Department of Education -- despite all the warnings -- is doing nothing about it.