‘Too early’ to judge impact of Project Maths

It is too early to properly judge the impact of the new Project Maths syllabus which has been partially credited for improved Leaving Certificate grades in the subject, say teachers and Education Minister Ruairi Quinn.

Despite many criticisms of the system, in which all students were examined in two out of five strands on one of the two maths papers in June, overall grades were up on last year. A record high 22.1% of maths students opted for higher level, up from a record low one-in-six a year ago, mainly prompted by the offer of bonus college entry points this year.

But the Teachers’ Union of Ireland said the revised syllabus should be assessed on a broad body of evidence and experience before any judgment is made on its merits or requirements for further adjustments. “If, on the basis of evidence, adjustments are required, then of course they can be made,” said the union’s general secretary John MacGabhann.

“It should be borne in mind that the Project Maths initiative is a measured response to the widely acknowledged problems of the previous syllabus and exam format. Some of the critics of Project Maths, we note, were harsh critics of its predecessor.”

Among the complaints have been that, while the changed syllabus gives students a more practical feel for the subject, it has shortcomings when it comes to teaching more advanced maths theory needed for study of science and engineering at third level.

With students’ results welcomed by employers group IBEC, American Chamber of Commerce Ireland and others keen to see higher standards among graduates and future employees, Mr Quinn said he was “by and large” happy with how the subject tested but also urged caution against overanalysing the impact now.

He said new requirements for teachers to top up their skills should have a major effect on results. “I would say, in all honesty, in terms of what we are doing in facilitating continual professional development of teachers for familiarity with the curriculum, that it is probably going to take a number of years before it is at the level of honed down that we would like,” Mr Quinn said. “The quality of teaching is the key to teaching educational outcomes.”

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