Study: Project Maths syllabus doing well, but could do better

The Project Maths syllabus designed to improve how the subject is taught at second level is moving in the right direction but there are still challenges, research on its implementation has found.

The curriculum reform is part of Government-led moves to improve standards and interest among students in maths, with the hope of a knock-on increase in participation in related subjects at third level.

Research for the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment points to positive outcomes, based on a study of students’ achievements and attitudes to the new syllabus.

The National Foundation for Educational Research in England looked at some of the pilot schools where Project Maths has been taught since 2008, and from the rest of the country’s schools which have taught it since 2010. It found:

* Students at Junior and Leaving Certificate level appear to be performing well and are broadly confident in their abilities in many aspects, particularly statistics and probability;

* Students in all schools were highly positive about the maths teaching;

* High numbers of students in pilot schools regularly take part in activities associated with more traditional approaches to maths teaching;

* Students find tasks that require higher order skills such as reasoning and transferring knowledge to new contexts harder than more mechanically demanding tasks.

* Students struggle in comparison with those in other countries in areas related to algebra and calculus; some higher-level Leaving Certificate students struggle with items relating to the functions strand of the course.

The Educational Research Centre at St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, carried out research with maths teachers in March focusing on Project Maths at junior cycle. However, with its introduction still in transition, almost half did not know if the programme was having a positive impact on learning.

“However, teachers indicated there have been positive changes in a number of aspects of students’ learning, including their understanding of statistics and probability, geometry and trigonometry, their ability to solve real-life problems, and to work collaboratively,” the research centre report says.

Teachers in pilot schools use computers and technology far more than those in other schools, and their classes do group work and collaboration more often.

A third report published yesterday says none of the early textbooks to support Project Maths met all the needs of the syllabus. However, publishers say they were given no guidance on necessary content and issues in initial implementation of the course are being addressed.


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