Back to class for 400 maths teachers

Around 400 teachers of maths will go back to college in September to get properly qualified to take classes in the subject, a year after the courses were first announced.

They are an estimated 1,900, or one-in-three, who teach maths in second-level schools but did not have it as a major subject in their initial college degrees.

Most of them had taken maths for at least a year in college, but a major survey by the Teaching Council last autumn also suggests that around 150 people who teach maths never studied it at college. An earlier study by a University of Limerick (UL) research group showed that those with no maths qualification are rarely allocated senior classes.

As part of its drive to improve numeracy and the maths skills of students, the Department of Education decided to provide free upskilling courses for all maths teachers who needed it. It suggested last September that the courses would be up and running early this year, but Minister of State Sean Sherlock has only now announced details of the two-year programme.

It is to be led by UL’s National Centre for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching & Learning (NCE-MSTL), offering a part-time course through more than a dozen colleges around the country. The courses will include online modules and local classes, which Mr Sherlock said will facilitate teachers working during the day.

A group of academic, industry and other experts recommended to the Department of Education two years ago that all second-level students should be taught maths only by teachers with a qualification in the subject by 2018.

“I believe that providing ‘out of field’ teachers with the specialised skills to teach maths in an enthusiastic and knowledgeable way will be a catalyst for more students pursuing maths-based subjects at third level,” said John Herlihy, head of Google in Ireland.

All Leaving Certificate students will be examined in parts of the new Project Maths syllabus next month, and elements will feature in the Junior Certificate next year.

The introduction of bonus college entry points for maths this year has prompted a surge in numbers indicating they will take higher level papers in the Leaving Certificate, from record lows of just one-in-six who sat them in recent years, although the numbers who actually do so will not be known until results issue in August.


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