Most Irish maths teachers believe Project Maths will not improve results – survey

8 Aug 2012

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Engineers Ireland has called on industry to act to get students more interested in maths. The move from the engineering body comes in the wake of a survey of 253 members of the Irish Maths Teachers Association (IMTA), which has revealed 57pc of maths teachers who believe the introduction of Project Maths will not improve students’ maths results.

Project Maths itself is a new approach to Leaving Cert maths and involves a problem-solving approach that marries critical thinking and mathematics. The initiative started in 2008 when Project Maths was set up in an initial 24 schools.

As well as this, the Department of Education and Skills announced a new national initiative to upskill secondary school maths teachers in Ireland in May of this year. The Government has given €2m to fund the national programme for upskilling out-of-field teachers of maths over the next three years.

Irish Maths Teachers Association survey results

Engineers Ireland released the initial findings of its survey today ahead of the official Leaving Cert results out next Wednesday.

The survey points to some interesting statistics in relation to the maths-teaching curriculum at both the Junior Cert and Leaving Cert cycle.

For example, of the 253 teachers surveyed, nearly 84pc thought maths education should be given greater priority in the teaching curriculum than it currently is given in order to support the future skills needs of Ireland’s economy.

In addition, nearly 75pc of maths teachers said there should be more focus on maths at Junior Cycle while more than 77pc thought students would benefit if maths teaching in schools was combined with industrial visits to view real-life application of maths.

"This is the first time we have garnered the views of the people who are critical to nurturing our students’ understanding of maths, and the findings are extremely insightful," said John Power, director-general, Engineers Ireland.

Because so many maths teachers feel Project Maths, at least on its own, may not improve student achievement in the subject, he said this needs addressing.

"Clearly, a huge focus has been put on improving maths results amongst our students. For the new Project Maths curriculum to receive such little enthusiasm from our maths educators is a concern," said Power.

Industry’s role

Power said Engineers Ireland will be hoping to hold talks with the IMTA about how the engineering body can best support its members.

Power pointed to the fact that more than three-quarters of maths teachers believe industry has a vital role to play in explaining the real-life applications of maths to students.

"It suggests that greater external supports for teachers can make a big impact," continued Power. "We must be realistic. The Government has little money to spend. Therefore, it is incumbent on industry to support the work of maths teachers as much as possible to bolster the effectiveness of the Project Maths rollout."

IMTA chairperson Dominic Guinan said he wasn’t surprised by the results of the survey. He said it was "encouraging" that 43pc of the teachers surveyed believe Project Maths will improve students’ maths achievement.

"This is the first year of the full implementing of the initiative. To have reached a 43pc approval so soon, when it will take seven to 10 years, at least, for the Project Maths course to bed in, gives me great hope for its success," said Guinan.

Engineers Ireland said the full details of the survey will be published in September.

The body will be extending its free maths tutorials from Dublin to centres in Cork and Galway from the end of September. Power said the aim of this programme will be to allow chartered engineers help in bringing the maths curriculum to life by giving real-life examples of the relevance of maths in the workplace.

Students interested in registering for the free maths tutorials in Cork, Dublin or Galway should visit Steps.ie.

Maths image via Shutterstock

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Carmel was a long-time reporter with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com