Bonus points won’t make students take up higher level maths

11 Aug 2010

A survey of Irish ordinary level maths students has found that the re-introduction of bonus points still would not be enough to make them do higher level maths, showing just how deep this schism has been allowed to develop in the Irish education system.

The findings of the survey by Engineers Ireland were revealed ahead of the official Leaving Cert results next week.

In a survey by Engineers Ireland of maths students who sat the Leaving Cert this year, it was also found that nearly 83pc of ordinary level students made their decision by 5th year, with half of them opting out of the higher level syllabus during their Junior Cert year.

When asked about their perception of maths, 41pc of ordinary level students surveyed believe that higher level maths was too time consuming, almost a quarter (23pc) said they found the subject ‘scary’, while 21pc believe they don’t need maths when they leave school. The remaining 15pc said it was boring.

Fionnuala Kilbane, Engineers Ireland communications director, said it was clear from the survey that there is still a vital need to alter the perception of maths amongst a large cohort of second-level students.

“The fact that nearly two thirds of ordinary level maths students surveyed said they still would not do higher level maths even if it offered bonus points suggests that, in isolation, bonus points are not the solution to boosting greater take-up at higher level.

“And the reality seems to be that the majority of ordinary level students surveyed turn their backs on the higher level syllabus by fifth year. We need to work harder to change the perception of maths at an earlier stage in schools and link it more closely to everyday applications that make it more accessible to students.”

Kilbane continued: “Project Maths focuses on linking maths with everyday experiences and we are delighted that the Government is rolling out the curriculum in September to first and fifth year students. Maths needs to be de-mystified and shown that it is integral to everything from mobile phone use to the effective functioning of Facebook.”

It was also revealed that half of ordinary level maths students thought their teacher was average or poor.

Some 47pc also said they experienced a change of teacher during their Leaving Cert years suggesting, according to Kilbane, that the Government must do more around standards in maths teaching to ensure the smart economy has a requisite supply of graduates with strong maths skills.

John Kennedy
By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years. His interests include all things technological, music, movies, reading, history, gaming and losing the occasional game of poker.

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