Do the math … Irish pilot scheme for maths literacy ‘JUMP Math’ launches

3 Sep 2013

Ciarán Cannon, TD, the Minister of State for Training and Skills in the Irish Government, with Aisling and Cormac, both from Dublin, and Mark Ryan, country managing director, Accenture Ireland

The Irish pilot scheme for the JUMP (Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies) maths numeracy programme has been launched today by the Irish Government. Conceived in Canada, JUMP Math is a different method of teaching maths to primary-school children. The premise is that everybody can enjoy maths and nurture their numeracy skills. Some 24 Irish schools are taking part in the initial pilot.

The Minister of State for Training and Skills, Ciarán Cannon, TD, launched the Irish strand of Jump Math today.

Canadian mathematician, author and playwright Dr John Mighton originally conceived the new teaching method.

Future Human

A fellow of the social entrepreneurship non-profit, Mighton came up with JUMP Math as a new teaching method for maths. In 1998, he then created the organisation JUMP to spread the word about his maths-teaching formula.

Mighton is also known for having doled out mathematical advice to the actors and screenwriters Ben Affleck and Matt Damon on the script for their Boston-based drama film Good Will Hunting (1997) that centres around maths-teaching and MIT.

How will school kids and teachers be deploying JUMP Math in Ireland?

So what exactly is JUMP Math all about and how will teachers and school children be deploying it in Ireland?

For the initial pilot:

  • Some 24 Irish schools will be taking part in this programme.
  • 600 third-class pupils will be taking part.
  • All of the schools will continue to follow the national maths curriculum, but the JUMP Math programme will be used as an alternative teaching methodology in 12 pilot schools.
  • A further 12 schools will serve as a comparison group. They will be using another methodology, IMPACT (Interactive Methods and Practical Approaches to Communicating and Thinking) Maths. This method has been developed by the Professional Development Service for Teachers.

To pilot the JUMP Math method, funding of some €100,000 is being provided by the Department of Education and Skills, together with Accenture and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI).

What will happen …

Based on the pilot, the Education Research Centre will evaluate the experiences of the 24 schools. The centre will be looking to determine whether the methodologies raise the performance of these eight- and nine-year-olds in standardised tests.

This pilot is being undertaken as part of Change Nation, an initiative of Ashoka Ireland.

The latter is seeking to launch proven social innovations from around the world, and build a culture of change-making in Ireland.

Speaking today at the launch in Dublin, Cannon said the Government recognises that it is crucial that raising maths and numeracy skills starts early in Irish schools.

He said Ireland could prove to be a European leader by piloting JUMP Math, before he thanked the 24 schools that are taking part in pilot.

“I am confident that together we can achieve great results,” he said.

STEM and career scope for Irish graduates

In terms of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects, Mark Ryan, country managing director, Accenture Ireland, said maths is fundamental to the company’s business and that is why Accenture is lending some sponsorship to the maths literacy programme.

He said Accenture is constantly seeking to recruit talented young people with maths qualifications for roles in analytics and technology, but there are challenges in finding top STEM talent.

“Ireland faces a major skills shortage in STEM graduates so finding ways to make maths more appealing and exciting to children as young as eight will ultimately benefit our future economy.”

Under JUMP Math, students are expected to discover and understand mathematical concepts by answering questions and working through challenges on their own, under the guidance and support of their teachers .

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic