Engineers Ireland calls industry to act as survey finds over 57% of maths teachers believe Project M

Engineers Ireland calls industry to act as survey finds over 57% of maths teachers believe Project Maths will not improve results

08 August 2012 at 11:39

Over 57% of maths teachers believe that the introduction of Project Maths will not improve achievement in the subject, according to a survey by Engineers Ireland.  The findings were revealed ahead of the official Leaving Certificate results which will be announced next week, Wednesday, August 15.

The survey of 253 members of the Irish Maths Teachers Association (IMTA), the first of its kind, also found that nearly 84% thought maths education should be given greater priority in the teaching curriculum than it currently is to support the future skills needs of our economy.  Nearly 75% of maths teachers said there should be more focus on maths at Junior Cycle while over 75% 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, Engineers Ireland, Director General.  “The fact that so many maths teachers feel Project Maths, at least on its own, may not improve student achievement in the subject is something that needs to be addressed. 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. Engineers Ireland supports any improvements in maths education and we hope to discuss with the IMTA about how we can best support its members when we analyse the detailed responses in depth.”

“For instance, the fact that over three quarters of maths teachers believe that industry has a vital role to play in explaining the real-life applications of the subject to students 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 roll out.  We must do everything we can to help more students engage with higher level maths so we can produce the engineers and business leaders of tomorrow.  The extension of the free Engineers Ireland maths tutorials from Dublin to centres in Cork and Galway, commencing on September 29, is part of this support and will allow Chartered Engineers assist in bringing the curriculum to life with real-life examples of the relevance of maths in the work place.”

The Engineers Ireland STEPS team, a strategic partner of the national Discover Science and Engineering programme has developed a range of support materials which are available on its website to assist maths teachers.  This includes online video tutorials for junior and senior cycle as well as worksheets. Engineers Ireland also runs a volunteer programme whereby engineers enter schools and talk about the application of maths in engineering every day, providing inspiration through real-life role models.  The body has also worked with the National Centre for Excellence in Mathematics and Science at the University of Limerick to develop Continuing Professional Development (CPD) materials for teachers as part of the delivery of the national programme for the up-skilling of maths teachers.

Dominic Guinan, chairperson of the IMTA, said: “I am not surprised by the results of this important survey. Indeed I feel that the 43% of teachers who believe that Project Maths will improve Maths achievement is encouraging. This is the first year of the full implementing of the initiative and to have reached a 43% approval so soon, when it will take seven to 10 years (at least) for the PM course to bed in, gives me great hope for its success.”

“The IMTA position has been and still is that the course should have been introduced only in first year initially and to senior cycle in the fourth year of rollout. The consequence of the current rollout is that many teachers were teaching both the established and Project Maths courses in the past school year. Added to this was the day time and evening in-service which they were expected to attend and consequently the 2011-12 school year was extremely busy for many maths teachers. It is little surprise that a high percentage did not give it their full support.

“The 77% who felt that their classes would benefit from industrial visits is totally in step with the vision of the Project Maths team who aim to emphasise the importance of applying mathematical classroom methods to real life and practical situations.”

“The IMTA support the ideals of Project Maths and will work with the NCCA, the Project Maths team and other agencies to ensure that the final syllabus will reflect the needs and aspirations of both the educational and industrial sectors. It is much more important to be proactive and positive than destructive and negative in pursuing the common goal of raising the standard of maths education in Ireland.”

The full details of the survey will be published in September. Students interested in registering for the free maths tutorials in Cork, Dublin and Galway should visit steps.ie.