Will Project Maths pay off?

18 Aug 2010

As nervous Leaving Cert students the length and breadth of Ireland picked up their results this morning the various numbers came rolling in, with 4,300 students failing maths this year.

This figure, although seemingly high, is (marginally) lower than last year’s failure rate and this, says the Department of Education and Science, is hoped to be due in part to the implementation of Project Maths.

Project Maths is a new approach to Leaving Cert maths and involves a problem-solving approach that marries critical thinking and mathematics.

In 24 schools around Ireland 1,818 students sat the Project Maths Paper 2 this year as part of the overall roll-out of the new curriculum, which began in 2008. Here’s a sample paper for higher level Project Maths.

“Overall, I’m pleased to see that the results are broadly in line with previous years. I am particularly pleased that the results for Project Maths are in line with general trends,” said the Tánaiste.

The failure rate for ordinary level maths dropped a little from 10.4pc to 9.8pc while the number of students taking higher level maths – at 8,500 – wasn’t even double the overall maths failure rate across the board.

This does, however, mark the first decline in steadily rising maths failure rates since 2005 and more students took on honours maths where the Project Maths subject was available.

This autumn marks the beginning of the mainstream introduction of Project Maths, which has been prepared for through professional development for second-level maths teachers and an investment of €3m in 2009 with a further €5m this year.

Other science and numbers-oriented subjects showed similar failure rates. The failure rates for business and economics were 6.5pc and 5pc respectively, while chemistry and physics were 8pc and 7pc respectively.

The number of students opting for physics was down 0.4pc to 12.4pc this year while there was an increase in students taking higher-level engineering and technology.

“Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are considered to be the engines of growth and innovation in the smart economy, and I would urge students who have performed well in the examinations in these subjects to consider careers in these areas,” the Tánaiste added.