Forty-eight per cent of post-primary teachers of mathematics in Irish schools “did not have a mathematics teaching qualification”, a survey carried out by the University of Limerick looking into the decline in mathematics in secondary schools has revealed.
The research report, titled Out-of-Field Teaching in Post-Primary Mathematics Education: An Analysis of the Irish Context and carried out by Dr Máire Ní Ríordáin and Dr Ailish Hannigan from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Limerick, involved a quantitative investigation taking a sample of 400 post-primary mathematics teachers.
It looked at the number of “out-of-field” maths teachers, ie, those assigned by school administrators to teach subjects which do not match their training or education, and the results were revealing.
It was found that in total, the 156 (48pc) of teachers without a teaching qualification in mathematics were teaching 6,294 students in the 51 schools around Ireland while the 168 teachers with a maths qualification covered 14,579 students in total (some 22pc of teachers did not respond to the survey).
A breakdown of the non-maths qualified teachers found that 34pc had a primary degree in commerce or business without a significant mathematics component while 27pc had a concurrent teacher education degree without mathematics.
Older teachers, it was found, were more likely to have a qualification in maths: only 40pc of the teachers aged 35 or under had a teaching qualification in mathematics compared to 65pc of those over the age of 35.
These teachers not qualified to teach post-primary mathematics were found to be more often assigned to ordinary level, particularly non-exam years, foundation-level maths and LCS (Leaving Cert Applied) classes.
Of the principals surveyed for this report, 52pc said they found it difficult to source suitably qualified mathematics teachers while almost all of them (92pc) agreed that properly qualified maths teachers were essential for long-term improvements in mathematics at the post-primary level.
By Marie Boran
Photo: Some 156 (48pc) of teachers without a teaching qualification in mathematics were teaching maths to 6,294 students in the 51 schools around Ireland, a survey has found