Teachers say maths syllabus too difficult

Maths teachers say the Project Maths syllabus is too long to cover in class and exams could be penalising students with literacy difficulties.

They also fear that students whose schools can schedule additional maths classes could gain an advantage over others, and suggest some elements be removed from the course, while others need to be increased for those hoping to study engineering or science.

Project Maths is being introduced over a number of years to change the way the subject is taught, and students have already been examined on parts of the course in the Junior and Leaving Certificates.

By taking a more practical approach, it is hoped to help students better understand mathematical concepts and to increase the uptake of higher level in exams.

However, the Irish Maths Teachers Association has raised concerns in a 12-page report to the Department of Education, the State Examinations Commission, and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment which designed the syllabus. It said students enjoy the new teaching methods, and the use of more real-life topics means students’ perceptions of maths as an abstract subject are falling.

However, they say more teacher training specific to Junior or Leaving Certificate elements is needed and claim that changes to exam marking schemes are bringing the Junior and Leaving Certificate into disrepute. Crucially, they say, the course cannot be covered entirely during scheduled classes, meaning that extra Leaving Certificate classes have to be organised.

“Teachers now feel that it is impossible and unmanageable to cover the content in the class time provided,” the IMTA said.

It said the NCCA has grossly underestimated the number of hours needed to teach the course. The NCCA recommends 180 hours, equivalent to four class periods a week, but the IMTA says many schools are providing five or six a week.

The report states: “This is likely to be eroded as school management implement cutbacks. Teachers say that no revision-time is built in to the syllabus and that students are poor at taking responsibility for their own revision.”

In a series of IMTA meetings, teachers repeated criticisms of the language skills and time needed to read exam questions. “Students at Leaving Certificate ordinary level are struggling with the text-heavy nature of the exam questions,” the report said. “Consideration should be given to the amount of time these questions require of students and the pressure that trying to complete them puts on candidates.”

On the exams set so far on Project Maths, teachers criticised a lack of information on marks for each part of a question, and said marks do not reflect the time needed to answer some questions.

“The need to adjust marking schemes artificially, and the gross way that this has been done in the last few years, is bringing the examination into disrepute,” said the report. “The integrity and validity of the examination is being questioned by teachers, and this concern will grow among the public if not addressed.”

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