We need to heed the concerns of our maths students

We need to heed the concerns of our maths students

17 August 2011 at 00:00
We need to do a better job listening to the difficulties our students are encountering with the maths syllabus and integrate their feedback into reform around teaching of the subject, according to Director General of Engineers Ireland, John Power.  
 
The Leaving Certificate 2011 results indicated again that just 16% of students sat the higher level maths paper, by far the lowest rate of any honours paper, while over 4,300 failed the subject across all levels. Mr Power said students were crying out for assistance to better understand the rigours of the subject. 
 
“We need to listen to our students who clearly find the rigours of the subject in its current form too difficult.  In an Engineers Ireland survey of Leaving Cert maths students earlier this week, 81% said their maths teachers need to give them more practical, every-day applications for maths to aid learning.  This is a staggering figure that can not be ignored,” said Mr Power.   
 
“On this day every year for as long as I can remember, poor maths and science results have led to the usual clamour for new investment in education and so on.  But the views of the only people that really matter, the students, often seem to be lost in the hue and cry that results.  And students are quite clearly voicing their concerns about how the subject is taught.  This is what needs to be reflected in any reform or industry initiatives.”
 
Mr Power continued: “The Government clearly faces difficult fiscal constraints and can only work within its means so any reform of our education system needs to be measured and judicious.  The Project Maths roll-out offers promise but there needs to be more supports from industry to shift maths teaching towards explaining the every-day relevance of the subject.  The Engineers Ireland’s free maths grinds programme throughout the academic year allows us to interact with students on an ongoing basis and throws up one consistent theme: students need a different type of teaching and more supports to fully understand maths.” 
 
In a survey of 180 maths students by Engineers Ireland who sat the Leaving Certificate this year, over 64% of Leaving Certificate maths students said they would like class numbers halved to help them cope with the challenges of the subject. 81% said their maths teachers need to give them more practical, every-day applications for maths to aid learning. 55% said they felt their maths teachers needed extra training to teach the subject and over 46% of maths students said they needed grinds outside the classroom.