The first students to learn a new maths course did better than others on international tests — but do not like the subject as much as those taught the older way.
The findings of research on 15-year-olds’ performance in the 2012 OECD maths tests are largely positive for the rollout of Project Maths. Its new approach puts more emphasis on student understanding of maths concepts and applying that knowledge to solving real-life problems.
The Educational Research Centre at St Patrick’s College in Dublin compared scores in the Programme for International Student Assessment for students at the 23 schools where Project Maths has been taught since 2008 to those at 159 other Irish schools where OECD tests in maths, science, and reading were also conducted two years ago.
The average Irish student scored 501.5 in maths, significantly higher than the OECD average of 494. However, after taking account of factors such as social mix of schools, students’ background, gender, and attitudes to maths, the ERC found that students at the 23 “initial” schools scored 10 points more than other Irish students. The researchers say this is “significantly higher” and that these “initial school” students, girls in particular, did better on the space and shape section.
The researchers were surprised to find more negative attitudes to maths among students who had been taught the new course, but study co-author Gerry Shiel said greater anxiety about it may reflect concerns about assessment because the pilot school students were among the first to take the revised Junior Certificate exam.
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