Joe’s Jotter: Choosing your Course (My CAO Countdown I)

 

Change of Mind Oncoming

As the ink dries on the final few Leaving Cert Papers, the attention for 6th years immediately turns to reviewing and checking their CAO choices made earlier this year. With the CAO change of mind deadline approaching at months end, I felt it good timing to provide some guidance to help students re-evaluate and analyse their earlier decisions.

This is the first point in the year where the CAO process can lead to an amount of anxiety among students. As with every year, students are worried: ‘Will the points rise for my courses?’, ‘have I chosen the right courses in the correct order?’, ‘what if i don’t get my first choice?’ or maybe ‘what if i don’t even get an offer at all?’. This article should serve as a reminder of the importance of spending time properly researching your choices now. Knowing the CAO process well and having confidence in your choices will smooth the way for a less painless journey come results time in the Autumn.

I now strongly recommend that every student begins reviewing their initial choices (made way back in February) over the next few days and not leave it until the final hours, when making key decisions under the stress of a deadline isn’t good. I think it is well worth spending 4 to 5 days ensuring that you make the best possible choices for your future. Knowing you have done your research well will set your mind at ease for the rest of the summer. Your final CAO choices must be submitted online by 5pm on July 1st.

Complete The Final Check

In May, the CAO e-mailed you a ‘statement of application’ record. Open that e-mail now and check that every single detail on it is correct. It is important not to just check course names, codes, possible language exemptions etc, but also to check your personal details. If you spot any incorrect information or spellings, contact the CAO immediately. You can change most of these details online yourself. However, you will need to e-mail the CAO office to change your name, phone number or date of birth, if required.

It should be noted that any change you make to your CAO details/courses over the next few days will be confirmed to you by e-mail. You should always comb over these e-mails for accuracy. If this confirmation e-mail doesn’t arrive (keep an eye on your junk mail), again, contact the CAO office. If you make a mistake on your CAO form, you may not be able to correct it after July 1st. If you enter the incorrect course or accidentally place them in the wrong order, you could see the third level place you want given to another student. From this point of view, I would get a second person (a parent usually) to double check all your Information is accurate. All students must check their ‘Statement of application’ e-mail whether they are changing their mind on courses in this window or not.

How do I Get onto a Third Level Course?

To get your place on any third level course, you need to fulfil three elements. You need to reach the ‘minimum entry requirements’ e.g. For Trinity College Dublin (TCD), the standard matriculation requirements are pass grades in English, Mathematics, a language other than English, and a full set of valid subjects for your examination system. The second element you must meet is the ‘subject requirements’ for a course. e.g. You must get at least an O1/H6 in Maths to get into Engineering at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT). Thirdly, you obviously need to achieve the CAO points required for that course. The exact entry requirements will be listed on the CAO website for each individual course. The message here is that when you are viewing a course’s content and modules, carefully checkout the relevant requirements you need to attain also.

Genuine Order of Preference

The most important thing to be sure of is to put your course choices in the exact order you’d prefer them. You should not order them on how many points you think you will score or change them around based on how your exams went. At the end of a Leaving Cert exam in a specific subject, you may feel you have underperformed or haven’t reached the required grade for a course. Often, this may not be the case. Your first choice should be the course you want to do above all others (your dream course), no matter what last year’s points were. Your second choice is your well researched ‘Plan B’.

You have two separate lists to fill in. The level 6/7 list and the level 8 list. Level 6 is for higher certificate courses, Level 7 for ordinary degree and Level 8 for honours degree courses. You may be offered a course from both lists, but you can only accept one of these. No matter what college course you commence, you will always have the opportunity to progress to a higher one once you have completed your chosen one in full. The course you select is just the beginning of your career journey. It is not the final step.

On each list, be aware that if you are offered your second choice for example, you cannot be offered your third choice or below thereafter. In this scenario, you can still be offered your first choice in future CAO rounds. You can go upwards on each of your two lists but cannot go downwards. This makes your order of preference decision even more crucial.

Changing your Mind

You can change or add in new courses to your Level 6/7 and your Level 8 list before July 1st @ 5pm. The only courses that you cannot add in at this stage are called ‘Restricted courses’. Restricted courses will be marked in your CAO handbook. An example of a restricted course may be a Music degree where a practical element was required to be completed earlier. Another example is Medicine where the ‘HPAT’ exam is also completed and assessed prior to CAO day.

Ideally, fill out all ten choices on both lists. I would advise entering at least seven courses on both lists to cover your bases well; choosing courses you have a genuine interest in.

How to Choose a CAO Course

When selecting your courses, ask yourself questions like:

  1. What areas did I enjoy learning about in school?
  2. What subjects in school have i a natural curiosity for?
  3. What subjects in school didn’t really feel like work?
  4. What modules would get me up for early lectures on cold winter mornings?
  5. Is there a topic or career I believe I have a passion for?
  6. Am I narrowing my focus on a specific area too much?
  7. What subject would I like to find out more about?
  8. Could I see myself working in this career or a similar one in five years’ time?
  9. What draw’s me to this course?
  10. Have I a good solid Plan B?

You don’t need to know the exact answers to all of these above questions, but it will certainly get you thinking about the reality of whats ahead and your current decisions. A bit of soul searching is necessary before reaching your final order of preference. Keep in mind also that you will probably be graduating in three or four years’ time, so think ahead a little about what jobs and careers might be in demand them.

In general though, select your courses based on your talents and passions, not how much money you can earn from a career or what other people think. Oh! and did I mention the deadline is July 1st at 5pm? I did of course. The sooner you start your deliberations, the more thinking time you will have. You can contact me (via the below details) for a short consultation should you need advice or more detailed information on this year’s CAO process or third level applications 2022. Part two of ‘My CAO Countdown’ will be published and circulated next week. Joe

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2023) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

ACE Maths Tuition Classes: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

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Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

The ACE Guide to Exam Prep From Home (Feature 5 of 6)

 

The Importance of Your Friends

Dear Students,

Being successful in any new routine is determined by how positive your outlook is. In order to maintain that positivity, keep in touch with friends via WhatsApp and social media. Positivity also fosters better mental health. Maintaining contact with friends is vital, as you will understandably miss the lack of face-to-face interaction with them when at home revising. A conversation with mates will help you forget about burning issues and renew your energy. Always try and be positive in these conversations in order to boost and motivate each other. Keep in mind that you will spend most of your time studying alone, so social time on facetime or calls with your friends from school is important. Learn how to achieve a balance of phone use, leaving it outside your study area at all times. Sorry folks!

Maintain Some Form of Exercise

Maintain some form of exercise. I find that short walks allow ideas and thoughts on subjects to sink in. I’m not sure why?, but it works. On days not in school, try not to stay in bed past ten a.m. and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables in order to build the key vitamins in your system. While preparing at home, retain as many of your school routine habits as possible to facilitate seamless revision and learning.

Notice each day how you are feeling. In relation to emotions, its often the case that when you ‘name them’, you ‘tame them’. This awareness will help you be more in tune with your body and deal with any ‘down time’ should it arrive. Apparently, doing a quick five minute tidy of your space or bedroom increases positive feelings and emotions. Try it and see! If you do find yourself down in the dumps, be sure to talk to someone; anyone at all.

Trusting the Exam System

For exam students, you need to trust the fact that we have one of the most robust and fairest exam systems in the world. The exam papers are always marked fairly each year, no matter what the circumstances. It is currently a very transparent system, so please trust it. Focus on your own work and what you can control. The State Exams Commission (SEC) are hyper aware of the importance of student’s mental health right now and this has been reflected by the extra choice and options on this year’s exam papers.

Staying Positive

It is important to try and focus on one task at a time and not look too far ahead during times of stress. It is perfectly ok to be worried or anxious about uncertain situations and you should acknowledge the existence of these feelings. Try to find someone to talk to about stress or any worries you may have. It can be a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, a sibling, a teacher, a relation, or a parent. Somehow when you talk through whats worrying you, it often becomes more manageable. Listening to negativity on social media or from friends can do more damage than good, especially around exam time. Premier league footballers don’t read negative press about themselves as they diligently prepare for their next game – they have been coached not to. Sticking to the exact facts will help you face up to the reality of each situation that you are faced with, whether that be in exams or life.

Keeping a Diary

I found keeping a diary useful in managing worries and anxieties and would encourage you to write your own thoughts regularly into a Journal; even just a list of uncertainties that may be playing on your mind. Try to remember that being overly anxious can prevent you from doing your best in exams. Learn and practice some calming techniques. Seek help from a professional if you feel it is all too much. Be sure to reach out.

Things Change Quickly

Varying what we do each day keeps our brains active and will allow less time for anxiety to creep in. As human beings, our minds often bring us to worst-case scenarios. We learn from experience that these rarely come to pass, with fear often being a false emotion. Cast your mind back to good times you had recently, things weren’t really that amazing then were they? Now remember a point in your life when you struggled; things quickly changed some days later and it didn’t seem as horrible as you expected in the end, did it?

“Nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain.“

Guns N’ Roses

Always focus on what you can control and the good people in your life. Stay positive, maintain contact with friends and deal with the exact reality of situations. You are more resilient and stronger than you think. Doing your fair share of revision each day and ticking off that task list you create (each night) will greatly reduce anxiety levels. Try my ‘Recommended ACE stability measures’ below to sustain confidence and combat your fears.

 Recommended ACE Stability Measures

  1. Tick off each topic in subjects as you complete and understand them.
  2. Focus on what you have completed each day (Not what you haven’t).
  3. Think positively about yourself.
  4. Plan something nice or enjoyable each day.
  5. Take things day by day.
  6. Set yourself little targets and subject challenges each day.
  7. Always remember that ‘You are enough’.

To read last week’s article on ‘Supporting Your Child Right up to Exam Day’, click here. Thanks Joe.

More details about Joe’s Maths Tuition Classes for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022) and his Award Winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

ACE Maths Classes: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition

ACE Maths Solution Books: acesolutionbooks.com/buy-my-books

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Photo:@ZhangChaosheng

Joe’s Jotter: Changing your ‘CAO’ Mind – The Final Decision (Part II)


Investigate each Course’s Content

In order to rank your courses in a way that suits you best, choose ones you really want to do (not necessarily the ones your friends are doing or ones your parents want you to go into). Choose for you and no one else. When choosing a course, be sure to examine closely the module descriptor for each course. This tells you the exact layout of the course, how many credits each module has, how the exams are assessed in it, how many hours you will spend on each module, how the learning will take place and exactly what you will learn about. Investigate the exact modules you will be studying for each potential course. This is my most important piece of advice. You don’t want to be heading into November or December thinking ‘I am not interested at all in any of this stuff’ #nightmare.

The CAO is not the Only Show in Town

If you have not applied to the CAO or do not receive a CAO offer at all come September, there are other options. You should go on the SOLAS website (solas.ie) to investigate further education alternatives. These tend to be with your local Education and Training Board. For example, Louth & Meath Education and Training Board (LMETB). Many ETB’s offer Post Leaving Cert (PLC) courses which will give you a Level 5 or Level 6 qualification. These courses are one or two years in duration and often involve practical work experience in companies. The fees for these courses tend to be much less than your standard CAO courses and grants are available in many cases also.

PLC courses attaining you a FETAC level 5 or 6 qualification are a steppingstone into higher college courses. These also allow you to see if an area of study suits you. Some courses in Colleges/Universities set aside a quota of PLC (FETAC) students to fill places each year. If you achieve the required results in your chosen PLC course, a college may accept you onto one of their courses. You can verify this by ringing up the college and asking them about accessing a specific course via the PLC route. You can find the full list of PLC courses on www.fetchcourses.ie or contact the Further Education College directly. Examples of PLC courses that students regularly progress further from are Pre-Nursing and ICT. For each CAO course, you will also be able to view (on cao.ie) what PLC requirements will get you a place on a given CAO course. This is well worth researching over the next few weeks.

To enhance your skills in a certain area, you can go also down the apprenticeship training route by checking out www.apprenticeship.ie. The apprenticeship scheme has been expanded greatly recently to include employers and jobs in many fields. Many of these companies would be delighted to take you on and help you grow and learn on the job. Apprenticeships were traditionally only for crafts like carpenters, electrician, plumbers etc. While these still exist, there are now new ones in ICT, Accountancy, Engineering, Insurance, Catering and Fintech etc.

A traineeship is also another option which can be considered. A traineeship is based around making your more employable by improving your skills. These tend to be a short duration courses (12-18 months) and are mostly run by the ETBs. Many apprenticeships and Traineeships are ‘Earn as you learn’ and therefore you can get your qualifications and have a few quid to live or pay for accommodation also.

Personally, I would have a look at alternatives like these above over the next few weeks, just in case the CAO process doesn’t go in your favour. It is good to have a little plan in the background, should you not get what you expect. You may not even need to use it, but it will certainly give you the comfort of having it there on the back burner.

Have a Plan B, C and D…..

I have spoken to hundreds of students over the years who had their heart set on one course and when they didn’t make it, they had no fall back plan. Your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th choice are really important, so you would need to be content enough to accept them should it come to that. I cannot emphasise enough about the importance of checking out the module content of each course you choose. For each course, you need to genuinely ask yourself, ‘Would I do this course’?. This will then set the platform for your Plan B, C and D. If there are limited amount of courses you really want above all others, contact the institution offering it and ask them ‘Is there any other way to get into the course by studying something else first as opposed to the direct points route?’. This could be very useful Information later should things not work out perfectly.

Remember, if there is a subject matter you really enjoy or a course you feel you would be really good at, you may need to travel and live in another part of Ireland. Do not rule out the possibility of the UK (UCAS), the Netherlands, Poland, Italy or other European (UNICAS) countries. Fees and demand have dropped for some courses in Europe that are very popular here. Usually, your results do not need to be as high to study courses in the UK and Europe, compared to Ireland. Do that bit of exploration here if your heart is dead set on something. Just like in Ireland, places in certain courses may become available when not filled in early rounds.

Six Final Key Points of Note

  1. Keep an eye on the ‘CAO alert lists’ for new courses emerging in various colleges on www.cao.ie. Courses are added here on a continuous basis in the ‘Student Resources’ section of the left hand side of the CAO Homepage. You can add these into your CAO listing before July 1st (5.15pm). These courses are not in your CAO handbook (hardcopy). They may also come in at lower points, as many students may not be aware they even exist and will not have them on their CAO listing. As this article goes to press, twenty three of the third level institutions have an ‘alert list’ with new courses on them now.
  2. If you have applied for the HEAR or DARE scheme, you will find out if you are successful or not on June 29th this year. You will be able to appeal any decision made from these schemes from July 5th. Information on HEAR and DARE is on www.accesscollege.ie.
  3. For those of you who have applied for Medicine in various Universities, the HPAT results are due out before the end of June.
  4. The Leaving Cert results are out on September 3rd with the first round of CAO offers issued four days later on September 7th at 2pm.
  5. Students will be able to view their exam scripts and appeal their ‘written exam’ results sometime after September 3rd. I will issue a further guidance document on this in early September. Separately, students will also be able to appeal their ‘accredited grade’ in September. This appeal will only encompass a clerical check, ensuring that marks were correctly transferred. Accredited grades given by your school will not be changed unless a clerical error (only) is detected. As you all know at this stage, you will receive the highest result between your ‘Accredited Grade’ and ‘Written Papers’ for ALL subjects.
  6. I would recommend you sign up to https://careersnews.ie/ to keep up to date with announcements, CAO developments and news from third level institutions. You can contact me (via the below details) for a short consultation should you need advice or more detailed information on this year’s CAO process or third level applications 2021. Wishing you good luck. Joe

To read part 1 of this article, click here.

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More details about Joe’s ACE Maths Tuition classes for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate Students (2022), ACE Maths Assessments, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

W: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition
FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

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Joe’s Jotter: Useful Vocabulary and Phrases for an Exam in Gaeilge

Hello students of Irish,

The key to excelling in languages is to learn a new word or phrase every single day and record it in a hardback (so my Irish teacher colleagues keep telling me). Here are some everyday phrases that can be used by students from Leaving Cert all the way down to First year. The great thing about knowing you vocab is that you can bring it into an essay, an appraisal of a poem or even an analysis of a piece of text; It works for everything. In my opinion, it is definitely an area worth investing your time into. Here is your list:

 

ag cabhrú le daoine bochta = helping poor people

I gcuinne mo thola = against my will

do thola – your will (singular)

a thola – his will

a tola – her will

ár dtola – our will

bhúr dtola- your will (pl.)

a dtola – their will

Is féidir leis rith ar nós na gaoithe.

de réir dealramh = apparently

de réir cosúileachta = apparently

níl ann ach ráiméis = it’s rubish

Tá sé ina chac! = It’s messed up!

Thar gach ní eile = above all else

Ní mór a admháil = it must be admitted

Is baolach = unfortunately

Dála an scéil = anyway..

Pé scéal é = anyway.

Ar an iomlán = on the whole

I gcomhthéacs an lae inniú = in the context of today’s world (handy for essays)

Ar amhraí an tsaoil = luckily

I ndeireadh na Dála = At the end of the day(NOT Ag deireadh an lae)

Idir an dá linn = in the meantime

Aithníonn ciaróg ciaróg eile = Takes one to know one

Tá sé de bhua ag an tír seo = this country has the advantage

Téann sé i bhfeidhm orthú = it affects them

Réitím leis an tuairim sin = I agree with that opinion

Níl de rogha air ach = there’s no alternative but

Go bunúsach = basically

Níl lá lochta agam orthu = I don’t blame them in the least

Ní gearánta dúinn = we shouldn’t complain

D’fhéadfaí a rá = one could say

Ní féidir a shéanadh = it cannot be denied

Tá róbhéim ar = There’s too great an emphasis on

Ní teorainn le = there’s no end to

Is léir don saol é = everybody knows

De réir na fianaise = according to the evidence

Is é fírinne an scéil = the truth is (in point of fact)

I gcian is i gcóngar = far & near

Níl aon dabht faoi = There’s no doubt about that

Aontáim go huile agus go homlán leis = I agree whole heartedly with it..

Ní gá ach sracfheachaint a thogail chun an fhírinne a fheiceail = It isn’t necessary but to take a glimpse to see the truth

Rinne mé an taighde agus tá an t-eolas agam chun an fhírinne a thaispeaint = I have done the research and I have the research to show the truth

Is léir go bhfuil/nach bhfuil = It’s clear that/that it isn’t..

Á mhalairt ar fad = far from it

Corp díchéile = the height of folly

Ina theannta sin = furthermore

Sa todhchaí = in the future

Bíodh sé lenár leas nó lenár n-aimhleas = let it be for good or for ill

Ní mór dúinn bheith san airdeall = we must be on out guard

Tuigim a thábhachtaí is atá sé = I understand its importance

Tá dul amú orthu sa mhéad seo = they are incorrect in this regard

Chuaigh sé i gcian ormsa = it influenced me

Go bhfios domsa = as far as I know

Is maith is eol dúinn = we know (only too) well

Ní lia duine ná tuairim = everybody has his own opinion

Tá clú agus cáil ar (Sheán) mar pheileadóir = (Seán) is very famous as a footballer

Mo áit dúchais = my native place

Tá sé ar dhuine de na cainteoirí is fearr = he is one of the best speakers

Cuireann sé le háilleacht na háite = it adds to the beauty of the place

Cuimhní taitneamhacha = pleasant memories

Dea-thréithe na ndaoine = the good charachteristics of the people

Bhí fonn taistil orm i gcónaí = I always wanted to travel

Is fada mé ag smaoineamh ar seo = I’ve long been thinking of this

Ó shin i leith = hence forth/from then on

Cleachtadh a dhéanann máistreacht = practice makes perfect

Ní lia tír ná nós = every country has it’s own customs

Nósanna na tíre = the cutoms of the country

Teastaíonn uaim é in a dhéanamh = I want to do that

Na háiteanna clúiteacha = the famous places

Is í mo thuairim mheáite = It’s my considered opinion

Rogha an dá dhíogha = The lesser of two evils

Tháinig an lá mór i ndeireadh na dála = the big day came at long last

Bhíomar go léir ar bior = we were all on edge

Bhí an áit plódaithe = the place was packed

An lucht féachána = the spectators

An lucht éisteachta = the audience

An lucht leanúna = the followers

Caighdeán ard = high standard

Chuir mé aithne air = I got to know him

Comórtas scoile = school competition

Daoine difriúla = different people

Féith an ghrinn = sense of humour

Bua na cainte = the gift of the gab

Ag pleidhcíocht = messing

Oibríonn sí go dian dícheallach = she works very hard

Bíonn aoibh mhaith air i gcónaí = he’s always in good form.

críochdheighilt = partition(as in political)

cinedheighilt = apartheid

comhrialtas = coalition government

reachtaíocht = legislation

poiblíocht = publicity

fuarchúis = apathy

Tá buntáistí agus míbhuntáistí ag baint leis – there are advantages and disadvantages connected with it

Thar a bheith tábhachtach = very important

Teagmháil leis an bpobal = contact with the people

Taithí = experience

Riachtanach = necessary

fite fuaite = interwoven

rinne mé staidéar orm féin = I steadied myself

chun an fhirinne a rá = to tell the truth

Tá mé as mo mheabhair = I’m crazy (lit. I’m out of my mind.)

Tá mé trí chéile = I’m in a (bad) state.

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More details about Joe’s ACE Maths Tuition classes for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate Students (2022), ACE Maths Assessments, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below.

W: acesolutionbooks.com/ace-maths-tuition
FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

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Joe’s Jotter: Homework and Your Child – A Parent’s Guide


Homework is an extremely important part of your child’s learning at Secondary School. It is key that all students spend some time each night revising what they have learned in class each day. This also applies in situations where they are not given anything written or oral to do that evening. Tending to homework diligently each night will certainly reap benefits as a student enters their final years at second level.

How Much Time should my Child be Spending on Homework?

Time spent on homework varies according to what year a student is in. In sixth year, I recommend that students target at least two hours homework and one-hour revision each evening during the school week (Monday to Friday). Fifth years should target a minimum of at least two to two and half hours work in total each night. First up to third years should complete between one and two and a quarter hours work a night. Further time spent on homework and revision during a weeknight will probably involve a loss in Information retention. To this end, it is important to use common sense as night draws in i.e. tomorrow is another day. Students that have their work done for the following day’s classes and find themselves falling asleep, should go to bed. Your body may be telling you to rest, so it is advisable to listen to it.

Time spent on homework is always time well spent. Students should always divide work due into two elements, namely ‘Urgent’ and ‘Important’. Homework will normally be urgent, as your teacher will be requiring it completed within one or two days. Revision itself is ‘Important’, unless it is within a month of state exams and then I believe it is ‘Urgent’. Each week brings different ‘Urgents’ and students should use this knowledge to work out how many revision and homework blocks they can fit into each week. Nights where a student has little or no homework should allow a revision of topics learned in class over the previous few days to take place. More details on this concept are detailed in my study guide publication ‘How to ACE the Leaving Certificate’ for all subjects.

ACE Tips for on How Parents Can Help Their Child Enhance Homework Time

Below are fifteen helpful tips that will hopefully facilitate your involvement in making homework a positive learning experience for your child.

  1. Provide your child with a suitable place and time to do their homework. Minimise interruptions/distractions from TV and other siblings.
  2. If a child has difficulty with homework, you should try where possible to help them overcome it with explanations and examples, without actually doing it for them.
  3. In the case of recurring homework problems, it is advisable to ring or send a quick note to the teacher to explain what the issue is. If you are a parent of a third or sixth year student or the issue is more urgent, a phone call is probably the recommended form of communication.
  4. Parents should communicate with teachers about homework in the following cases: when your child cannot do homework due to family circumstances, when your child cannot do homework due to a lack of understanding (after studying their class notes), or when your child is spending an unreasonable amount of time doing homework in a specific subject.
  5. As well as showing a keen interest in their homework, I would suggest being more aware of the type and content of homework they are doing. You can then attempt to link it to their everyday life by chatting to them about sports, prices, trends, media headlines, countries, travel etc. This will reinforce their learning.
  6. Reward an improvement (no matter how small) in their homework with a treat. Similarly, if the teacher has made a positive note about it in their journal, a reward will be deserved and appreciated. An example might be a takeaway meal, their favourite snack or a trip away with their friends. Make sure to check their journals regularly for comments on homework. This will help you to keep on top of things and identify any challenges your child might be experiencing.
  7. Ask the career guidance teacher about study skills courses which may help your child overcome barriers in relation to homework. Ensure you chat extensively with each subject teacher about their homework at the Parent-Teacher meeting.
  8. Talk to them about the homework they are doing in each subject. Most of all, if they are finding homework difficult, encourage them to talk to their teacher about what they find challenging.
  9. If they are finding a particular type of homework difficult, encourage them to persevere, try again and maybe write down what they are finding difficult so that the teacher can see evidence of their efforts. This can also help the teacher work out which learning styles may suit them and how best they can help.
  10. Teacher’s comments written on homework, class tests and mocks will help you understand what they may be doing wrong. Try and focus on any positive comment made by their teachers. Make some suggestions as to how they can improve from the less positive ones. They may not admit it, but they do value your opinion and advice. Always book end a negative comment with two positive constructive ones. This will leave them satisfied, knowing they also need to and can improve.
  11. Much of the information they learn in school applies to everyday life, so even though you may not be an expert on a subject matter, you will still be able to draw on your life experiences to tie in with what they are learning. Do not be afraid to try things or introduce perceived links with schoolwork to your children.
  12. If family circumstances change, make sure to inform the school as this can have an impact on your child’s homework and performance, of which the school and your child’s teachers may not be aware of.
  13. Knowing how your child is progressing in the classroom can help you make informed decisions about aiding or giving them space at home. Ask the teacher to send you a homework progress comment or the odd test result home in their journal, so you can remain up to date with each subject.
  14. Attending Parent-teacher meetings is important each year, so plan ahead for them when the annual school calendar is released. You can use these meetings as an opportunity to check progress and find out how your child is performing in relation to the class average etc. It also shows your child that you are interested in how they are progressing in various subjects. In my experience, it is good to enhance communication links with your child’s teachers, as your child is now aware that a line has been established between two significant people in their life.
  15. Parents should monitor homework from a distance to ensure it is being attempted to the best of their child’s ability. Many Parents are aware that their children are spending full evenings in their room; but are they actually completing homework and revision well during this period? Quietly check in with them weekly on how revision and progress is going in each subject. Car journeys can be a good time to do this. Commencing these habits in first or second year is advised, as It won’t seem like you are suddenly checking up on them later then. Your support and encouragement should motivate and foster an effective homework schedule each evening. This will ensure that the outside of school independent learning gets the respect it needs and deserves. Standing back and hoping all will be well could be a very risky strategy. Joe

To view last weeks feature article on ‘Improving your Homework at Secondary School’, click here.

*****

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition (Maths and English) Classes for Junior Cycle (2022) and Leaving Certificate (2021) Students, ACE Maths Assessments, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

W: acesolutionbooks.com

FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

#:   #JoesJotter

*****

Joe’s Jotter: The ACE Guide to Exam Preparation from Home (Feature 4 of 6)


Working Against the Clock

In order to give yourself the edge over your fellow students, you should work where possible against the clock. There is no substitute for creating a little exam environment at home. Firstly, read and understand a piece of work (e.g. a chapter in Physics) and without looking at your book, take a sheet of paper and over five minutes, write down all the key headings and important information from what you just revised. Go back then and re-read the chapter and update or re-do your summary page. You will notice that your summary page the second time is of much better quality and detail.

In recording and updating your summary page and unknown to yourself, you are actually learning and understanding the information better. Once you believe you have a decent grasp of a topic, you should seek out and try a past exam question based on it. Set your stopwatch to ensure you get the question attempted within the allocated time. It is important to get used to how timing works on exam papers, remembering that each paper in each subject differs.

Ask Your Teacher

Your subject teacher can offer expert guidance on using past papers, marking schemes and being efficient with time. In all cases, reach out to them if you are struggling to get revision started in any subject. They will be only delighted to try help you overcome barriers; always wanting you to do well. One of the ACE questions I would ask them is: ‘ What are the best ways to prepare and then learn the material in your subject’? This open question allows them to give you a range of options.

Through practice and their guidance, you will then find which strategies suit your learning style. This of course is on a trial and improve basis, where you won’t know a methods suitability until you attempt it first. You should also ring up a friend in your class for advice or encouragement to see what their opinion is or what viewpoint they are adopting with certain topics. The more views and advice you obtain, the better decisions you can make that fit your needs.

Practice by Doing

I am a huge fan of ‘summarising your summaries’ in order to have notes written simply in your own language and manageable to learn and understand later. Scientists have found an intrinsic link between one’s hand and brain, emphasising this point. If you manage to source good notes from a friend or online, reading and understanding their relevance isn’t enough. You will need to transcribe their content onto a new page in your own words. When doing this, use simple language, lists and  graphics to make the content memorable for yourself later.

According to the learning pyramid constructed by the National Training Laboratories at Maine (United States), we retain up to seventy five percent of work ‘practiced by doing’. ‘Practice doing’ involves active learning by writing notes on textbooks, attempting potential questions and being willing to make mistakes and learn from them. The retention figure from the pyramid for ‘reading’ reduces to just ten percent. This indicates that we only remember a small amount of what we read.

If your revision sessions thus far have consisted of reading texts (In a recent survey, fifty five percent of students claim that this is their number one study technique), you are wasting time and need to change tact now. You constantly should be reducing the amount of notes you have by re-writing/summarising them. For example, summarise ten lines of written or typed notes into four written. By consistently doing this you are actively thinking about the content instead of just scanning through it.

 Managing Difficult Subjects (Maths for Example)

Some subjects cause more anxiety in students than others. Unfortunately, my own subject, Maths, is one of those for many of you. This is a subject that everyone completes an exam in, and one that needs to be prepared well. With subjects you find difficult, apply the ‘Practice doing’ principle to it, as discussed above. My main advice around Maths (or indeed any subject you struggle with) would be to practice completing as many past questions from recent previous exams as possible. Start with the more straightforward part (a)’s and check your solution against a detailed solution book each time. Then commence the part (b)’s and so on. This will build your confidence levels step by step.

For Leaving Certificate Maths students, the shorter questions are a good place to start with this strategy. When you feel more confident, start combining questions together and measure your performance against the clock. For example, attempt to do two short questions inside the allocated time per question. This strategy links to the ‘home exam centre’ mentioned earlier. I cannot over emphasise enough the importance of testing yourself at home in difficult subjects. Set a quiz (or ask your friend to set one) or write a test for yourself the night before and complete it the next morning, inside a specified time limit. Use test questions from each chapter’s end. Check also if your teacher can e-mail you some mini-tests to tackle. Lack of class testing time means you must cover this base now yourself.

Homework given at any time of the year should be taken seriously. View homework as a challenge to get your method and answers as close to one hundred percent correct as you can. In my experience, the students who do well are the ones who research methods online or Investigate simple examples from their textbook in order to get started on those difficult past exam question. I still go online to verify Maths concepts that I am not one hundred percent sure of. While doing this, I often go on to discover alternative ways to solve problems and gather new pieces of information. The more pathways you can find to solve a given problem, the more options you will have to reapply these to questions presented on exam day. This applies across all subjects.

Recording new formulas and keynotes into a hardback is also a useful exercise, given you can refer to them in one central place from then on. This hardback will become (in time) your ‘go to fix’ if you get stuck on a problem. Ensure to keep all your notes and hardbacks in Maths (no sum copy bonfires), as you may end up studying a module in it at third level. Life can be strange sometimes. Algebra is the language of Maths, so knowing it is certainly a big help in this subject. The examiners place a big emphasis on this topic at all levels of Maths. If you are struggling in the subject, start by revising basic Algebra now. This will give you the foundations for a palatial residence later i.e. success. I would recommend using a small hardback for keynotes in all subjects.

In summary, if there is a subject you find difficult, build up your vocab of words that regularly appear in it, check in with your teacher to find out what core topics you need to focus on, allocate more time to the subject on your Lifestyle (Study) Timetable and ultimately attempt as many past exam questions on it as you can, starting initially with really basic questions from past papers.

To view last week’s feature article on ‘Students should work together to Improve their chance of Success’, click here.

*****

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition (Maths and English) Classes for Junior and Leaving Certificate Students, ACE Maths Assessments, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

W: acesolutionbooks.com

FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

#:   #JoesJotter

*****

Joe’s Jotter: The ACE Guide to Exam Preparation from Home (Feature 3 of 6)

Dealing with Motivation Issues – ‘I Don’t Know Where to Start’

Students, if you are struggling for motivation at home right now, put a half day’s timetable in place tonight and try it tomorrow. Time will fly, with each revision block being only thirty minutes. As you begin to see progress, your motivation will grow. An alternative approach to developing a timetable would be to create a task list. Each night you could write down a list of ten to twelve challenges you would like to achieve in various subjects the next day. Tick them off then as you get them completed. If you currently feel you are swamped with work and worry, this is your ‘get out of jail’ card. It is so important to set targets, otherwise timetables and lists are just ‘drive by’ and ‘hopeful’ preparations that you will never be answerable to. We all need targets to help us achieve things and it is also a fact that we are more likely to reach them if they are written down.

Once you set a measurable target (example: eight pages from a textbook to be summarised into your own words), assess how much progress you have made. On completion, tick it off the sub-topic list on your A3/A2 subject summary sheet. A short term target could be as simple as ‘understanding emotions’ from two English poems or practicing writing letters to an imaginary pen pal in whatever modern foreign language you study. Remember if you don’t know where to start, commence with the basics of a topic. i.e. view the first few chapters of your textbook or the first set of notes your teacher gave you on it. Start small and then when you get up and running and notice progress, you will be encouraged by your own efforts. Just get a routine going somehow, and then rinse and repeat.

Write out a List of Motivations in Your Journal

Another tip to improve motivation is to write out a list of targets in your Journal and then write ten reasons underneath explaining your motivation to ACE them. On lazy days, open that page and read your ‘motivational list’,  thinking about how you felt when you wrote them. This will inspire you to get started or keep going. Revising and preparing may seem like it is solely for your upcoming exam, but you will discover that learning is a lifelong process. Try to enjoy the challenge of getting that timetable completed or ticking off those tasks; you have nothing to lose and all to gain. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just give it your all.

For those of you who continue to struggle to get started on revision, start by writing down the activities you lean towards to dodge study. Put this list on your wall and be fully aware of the times you drift towards them. Being aware of this list will remind of what you really should be putting your mind to at that given moment. Any effort or movement towards starting a short revision block should motivate you to commence a second one i.e. The hardest part of being successful with any task is often just getting it started. Imagine yourself, on your side, rolling down a steep hill. You will gain momentum as you go.

The Many and Best Ways to Learn

The key to any successful Lifestyle (Study) Timetable is keeping your brain fresh by completing different tasks every thirty minutes. Rotate your learning between different subjects but also within subjects. What I mean by this is: Revise in all the different ways possible. You only need five or six ways that work for you but won’t know which ones suit until you actually road test them yourself. The below is a sample list of the many ways we learn. I am sure you could add even more creative and interesting methods to this list below that match your personality. Pick out three or four of these approaches and give them a try:

  1. Write a bulleted list to explain and summarise a short book extract.
  2. Summarise a chapter of your textbook into your own words.
  3. Create flash cards with a list of facts. Limit each card to seven key points.
  4. Record a summary using the voice memo function on your phone. Replay back.
  5. Put keywords and their definition for each subject (per topic) into a hardback.
  6. View a YouTube video of an expert or listen to audio/podcasts on topics.
  7. Teach or discuss what you have learned with a member of your family.
  8. Get your parents/siblings to ask you questions on a topic you have just revised.
  9. Read a summary out loud to yourself.
  10. Rotate your place of study to retain freshness. e.g. the garden or kitchen table.
  11. Create Bubble diagrams with Microsoft PowerPoint to illustrate topic linkages.
  12. Create a visual Mind Map for a sub-topic you are struggling with.
  13. Stick nine postits onto an A4 sheet. Write a summary with keywords onto them.
  14. Use different coloured pens (red and green) to draw attention to key points.
  15. Use different coloured highlighters to mark relevant details of note.
  16. Chat to friends to find out how they are approaching certain subjects/topics.
  17. Stick stickies/sheets on your wall for memory. Rotate content every five days.
  18. Research topics on the Internet to give yourself that extra piece of information.
  19. Continually test yourself with sample tests, online quizzes & past exam papers.
  20. Use Graphic Organisers to create a more visual set of notes (samples below).

Sample Graphic Organisers*

*Source: Using Graphic Organisers in Teaching and Learning (SLSS)

To view last weeks feature article on ‘Core Methodologies for Revising Maths at Home’, click here.

*****

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition Classes for Junior and Leaving Certificate Students (Maths and English), ACE Career Coaching, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

W: acesolutionbooks.com
FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/
#:   #JoesJotter

*****

© Joe McCormack 2021

Joe’s Jotter: The ACE Guide to Exam Preparation from Home (Feature 3 of 6)

Joe’s Jotter: The ACE Guide to Exam Preparation from Home (Feature 3 of 6)
Joe’s Jotter: The ACE Guide to Exam Preparation from Home (Feature 3 of 6)

Joe’s Jotter: Five Keys to Holiday Motivation

As we enter our Christmas holidays, we will all enjoy a well deserved break. However, don’t leave it until the day before school to open the school bag again. Depending on what year you are in, you will know yourself how many hours revision you need to put in over this period. Read the below list of pointers and Implement them today to improve your productivity over the festive season.

  1. Reward yourself:

Don’t forget to ‘have a life’ as you prepare for any upcoming exam. Reward yourself after a long study session with a trip to the cinema or visit to your friends. Try hard to develop your own balance between work and play. Ultimately, reward yourself with breaks, taking a reasonable one after every good hour’s work. There is nothing wrong with rewards like chocolate, ice-cream or a packet of gummy bears; as everyone who has done something constructive deserves a little thank you. The best reward you can give yourself on study days are breaks.

  1. Stay connected:

It is important to keep up communication with your friends and family at revision time. Let them know how you are feeling especially if you are anxious about a particular subject. You will feel so much better about a problem if you ‘chat’ about it to someone. It can be easy to get cut off from the outside world when you are highly focused, so try not to let this happen. Balance is the optimal situation here.

  1. Use your family:

Using your family to help is a useful means of learning that few utilise properly. Some of your siblings will have completed exams and may be able to pass on some good quality information or advice to you; so remind them to save their notes for you. Even if the content of their notes isn’t suitable for your learning style, their methods and notes structure could give you some ideas on preparation of your own.

Get your parents involved and tap into knowledge and practical advice they may have on subjects they enjoyed in school. Get them to examine you on topics, they don’t need to be experts on course sections as they can refer to Information from your book in front of them. All you need is their willingness to ask you loads of questions.

  1. Stick to your plan:

Whatever plan you have for the next three weeks, try and stick to it as best you can. Working in retail every hour over Christmas won’t get you any extra points. As I always say, ‘you can work for the rest of your life’ (including college). Try and balance time wisely if you do happen to have a job.

On a given day, if you plan for nine a.m. as the start time for revision, get up before then, have breakfast, get ready and commence at that exact time. The students that do well are those who apply this self-disciplined approach and it guarantees that you are getting maximum efficiency out of your time. A high level of satisfaction will come when you get your exam results; knowing you gave it your all.

  1. Try and maintain some routine:

Getting to bed at a reasonable time and getting plenty of sleep will allow you to stick to your goals and plans. This also applies to holiday periods. We all loose our routine over the holidays and that’s ok too. However, try and get back into better habits when the new year turns as January 6th approaches. This will allow your body to be somewhat adjusted when you return to early school mornings. Over your holidays, enjoy yourself but keep doing the basics: eat plenty of fruit and veg, drink plenty of water and get loads of sleep. Rest and replenish and get ready for the battles ahead.

To view last weeks entry on ‘Brilliant Advice from Former Students’, click here. Tune in to next week’s blog where I will give you full details on Part two of ‘How to revise more effectively from home’. Joe

*****

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition Classes for Junior and Leaving Certificate Students (Maths and English), ACE Career Coaching, and his Award winning ACE Maths Solution Books can be found via the links below. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

W: acesolutionbooks.com

FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/

#:    #JoesJotter

*****

© Joe McCormack 2020

Joe’s Jotter: Five Keys to Holiday Motivation

Joe’s Jotter: Five Keys to Holiday Motivation
Joe’s Jotter: Five Keys to Holiday Motivation

Joe’s Jotter: Two Clever Revision Hacks for Success

As Christmas exams draw closer, here are two under used hacks that might just give you the edge as you try to get the most out of your revision time:

  1. Record yourself

With so many portable digital devices to play content on now, recording audio is a great option being availed of by many students. This is an excellent revision hack if you have long commutes or spend a lot of time in the car. Playing back notes you have recorded is a very successful method of retaining information. I have recorded questions and answers for job interviews previously, where I called out a possible interview question and then proceeded to answer it as best I could. Recording information on various subjects has been helpful during my career, when different jobs and challenges emerged. The great thing about recorded audio is that it will always be at your fingertips and is easily accessed from multiple devices. You can also barter this material with your study buddy i.e. swap it for other audio content or even for a great set of handwritten notes.

Bullet points, facts, list and key points have the perfect attributes for being recorded to your phone and played again and again. Remember, you will need to repeat any learning process regularly to achieve success. Having a portable learning tool like your phone or a small hardback in your pocket is great to keep you tuned in when opportunities to catch up arise.

  1. Rotate your learning

I feel it is important to rotate the type of learning you do in order to keep the brain fresh and Interested. When you sit down at the start of the week to plan your Lifestyle (Study) Timetable, be sure to rotate your learning in each study block. This rotation tricks the brain into going longer. You should even rotate your place of study. For example, by studying a specific sub-topic in the garden, it will make it easier to recall what you revised there, since you have created an association with this part of your home. Rotating your learning could also involve going down the road to your grandparents or your local library to write some essays or update your hardback. I would recommend initiatives like this to maintain freshness in your preparation, ensuring each revision session gets the attention it deserves. A change is as good as a rest.

Rotating your learning means using multiple ways to take in and understand material and notes. There are so many ways you can acquire Information these days; examples of these include: reading, taking notes, writing summaries, listening to podcasts, recording something you have learned into your phone, playing back lists through your headphones, searching the Internet, reading out loud, getting someone to examine you, watching educational YouTube videos, watching educational tv programmes, watching ted talks, creating flashcards, summary hardbacks, using postits, sticking key notes up on your wall, underlining, highlighting or discussing a sub-topic with your friends or in a study group etc. These are just some of the options available to you, which you could and should be using. Select and practice a number of these in order to try and find out what works for you. After that, rinse and repeat. Joe

To read last weeks ACE feature on ‘The Importance of handwriting your own notes’, click here.

*****

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition Classes (Maths and English), ACE Career Coaching, and his ever popular ACE Maths Solution Books for the Junior and Leaving Certificate can be found via the links below. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

W: acesolutionbooks.com
FB:
facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/
#:   #JoesJotter

*****

© Joe McCormack 2020

 

Joe’s Jotter: Two Clever Revision Hacks for Success

Joe’s Jotter: Two Clever Revision Hacks for Success
Joe’s Jotter: Two Clever Revision Hacks for Success

Joe’s Jotter: The Importance of handwriting your own notes

With a lot of schools switching to iPad’s and tablets as a mode of Education, the debate rages about which type of notes is best to have from a classroom lecture i.e. typed or handwritten ones. I still think there is a question mark about learning content in digital format, with it being more suitable in some subjects than others. It is a super Idea to work with a study buddy or group, where you can swap essays and notes. Upon swapping these notes with your friend, always rewrite them into knowledge you understand. This is my ACE tip for being able to recall this Information later.

From listening to students, I think many of them still like to hold a hard copy book in their hand. Even as an ICT teacher myself, I believe that the old-fashioned way of taking notes by hand is best for the following reasons:

  • Since we now can type faster than we write, students are tending to type notes verbatim (exactly to the word) as they try to keep up with their teacher. We are copying down a lot of the teacher’s language directly. There would be more of our own language than the teacher’s used in a handwritten set of notes, which makes them easier to understand and ultimately, of better quality.
  • With handwritten notes, we spend more time thinking about the Information before the actual physical act of writing occurs. If we are attempting to type everything exactly as spoken, there is less thinking time about that same information. In essence, I believe that slightly more learning takes place during the actual handwriting process.
  • Keywords are valuable in any content. When you are taking down notes by hand in a lecture/class, you are listening out for the keywords to ensure you are grasping the bones of the sentence. Again, while typing you are trying to get everything down and so your brain misses out on this ‘essential keyword focus’.
  • When handwriting notes, you are putting your own special stamp on them, making it easier to recall information you have translated into your own words.
  • During class, you can link up handwritten notes quicker with bubbles, arrows etc. and while doing this, you are learning what the connections and linkages are in the teachers’ content. Joe

To view last weeks feature on ‘My Top 10 reasons to do after school study’,  click here.

*****

More details about Joe’s ACE Tuition Classes (Maths and English), ACE Career Coaching, and his ever popular ACE Maths Solution Books for the Junior and Leaving Certificate can be found via the links below. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

W: acesolutionbooks.com
FB: facebook.com/JoeMcCormackEducationalExpert/
#:   #JoesJotter

*****

© Joe McCormack 2020

 

Joe’s Jotter: The Importance of handwriting your own notes

Joe’s Jotter: The Importance of handwriting your own notes
Joe’s Jotter: The Importance of handwriting your own notes

Leaving Cert Support From Ace Solution Books Ireland

Leaving Cert Support From Ace Solution Books Ireland

Leaving Cert expert, Joe McCormack, an Irish eduational expert, has taught Mathematics, Geography, ICT, Technical Graphics, C.S.P.E, Woodwork, and Science in various Secondary schools in Ireland for the last fifteen years.

Joe offers expert Leaving Cert support. To find out more about this Leaving Cert support, click here.

Joe corrects exam papers for the Department of Education and Skills as well as the Dublin Examining Board. In addition to this, he has worked in Ireland’s top school for tuition, the Dublin School of Grinds.

Leaving Cert Support From Ace Solution Books Ireland

Through his experience and research, Joe has gained a unique understanding of the struggles and obstacles students’ face when it comes to the Leaving Certificate. With more than five thousand followers on Facebook, Joe answers queries and posts informative material to provide ongoing support to Leaving Certificate students and their parents.

Joe also offers a range of other support combined with support for Leaving Cert.

ACE Solution Books are an unrivalled suite of books that will ensure Secondary school students achieve their maximum potential in their final exams.

Leaving Cert Support From Ace Solution Books Ireland

Leaving Cert, Support From Ace Solution Books Ireland

From Project Maths Guru to Informative Educational Expert….

Over the last number of years, Joe has enhanced his popular Junior and Leaving Certificate Maths exam paper solution books and distributed them through bookshops and his former website http://www.projectmathsbooks.com

He has now widened scope to produce a suite of guidance books including a comprehensive two hundred page text book for all subjects on ‘How to ACE the Leaving Cert’.

This book, unique in the educational market, encompasses advice, information and tips across all subjects for students who wish to excel in their exams. Its content includes expert guidance on study skills, mock preparation, leaving cert hacks, exam day advice, advice from current and former students as well as exam nutrition and parenting an exam student.

Combined with a Maths solution book, an ‘ACE’ package is a must for all sixth year students to achieve excellent Leaving Cert results.

Leaving Cert Support From Ace Solution Books Ireland

Leaving Cert Support From Ace Solution Books Ireland
Leaving Cert Support From Ace Solution Books Ireland
More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022), ACE Maths Assessments and Solution Books via the links below.

Project maths-the silver bullet or a step in the right direction?

Project Maths –the silver bullet or a step in the right direction?

Maths teacher and ASTI member Joe McCormack looks at the impact and challenges of Project Maths The new Project Maths course is well and truly upon us now at this stage. This new way of teaching and learning maths will be given a fair shot to see if it can raise maths competency and increase the cohort of students who take higher level maths. Last June, Strands One and Two of the Project Maths syllabus were examined in the Leaving Cert with students studying the new course on Probability/Statistics and Geometry/Trigonometry, alongside other topics from the ‘old’ maths syllabus. This cohort only began to study the new syllabus in Fifth Year and so the students were in the precarious position of having to try to understand the “Project Maths way” in just two years. While, in general, the “old” course saw the above topics examined as separate questions with little linkage between them, June’s exam paper, in some places, linked topics together. I welcome this new association since we now live in an integrated world where problems, both academic and real life, need to be solved using a mutli-pronged approach. The Leaving Cert class of 2013 will need to need to be even more competent in dealing with the new concepts as they take on Strands Three and Four of Project Maths. Like the 2012 students, this year’s class will have studied the old syllabus at Junior Cycle, which means they have to work hard to adjust to the new course. Most teachers would agree that it would have been more beneficial for Project Maths to be introduced to only First Year students initially, with these students working their way up through the system, building on the concepts from the foundation up. Leaving Cert 2012 The results are now out for the class of 2012, so what are their implications and what kind of reaction have they got thus far? Firstly, an increase in the numbers opting for the Higher Level maths paper was anticipated, but the surge of 35 percent on last year’s numbers exceeded expectations. In actual terms, the uptake on this paper increased from 16pc to 22pc. This year 11,100 candidates sat the higher level paper, up from 8,235 in 2011. Almost all of them (98pc) were eligible for the additional 25 bonus CAO points because they achieved a D3 or higher in the subject. This should give great encouragement and reassurance to students in two minds whether to take this level. The bonus points inevitably contributed to higher CAO cut-off points in areas such as science and technology. Points for such courses were expected to rise anyway, driven by the increase in demand from students heeding the advice of Government and employers in relation to jobs. However, this initiative does not seem to have distorted the points system as much as was expected with only approximately 3,000 students using maths as one of their six CAO subjects and thereby benefiting from the bonus points. This would indicate that different or additional measures may be needed. Employers have welcomed the results but warned there was no room for complacency. Student feedback Students’ experiences and feedback on Projects Maths, in general, are mixed. From my experience, the First Years are enjoying the common introductory course. For example, the new Probability section allows them to get involved in more practical maths in the classroom, enhancing their learning on the primary school topic ‘chance’. I believe the more practical questions will increase students’ interest in the subject because they relate more to student’s everyday experiences. The teacher will have more opportunities for open discussions on topics in class and allowing students to back up their answers with relevant information should also allow them to express themselves more, leading to them developing a deeper knowledge of topics. In parallel with this, if a student can argue their case properly in the context of what they are being asked, they could be in line for very high marks. I see this as a positive development as it will foster creativity and promote independent thinking. However, in my opinion, there needs to be a more balanced paper set at all levels. Some elements of the papers were marked too easy while topics in other areas were too difficult. I would be more in favour of questions that are fair with a more rigorous marking scheme applied, if necessary. It would be nice if students finished their Post Primary Maths experience satisfied that they did their best and that the rewards reflect their efforts. They shouldn’t feel traumatised to a point that preparation for other exams might be compromised. This year, most students got the result they deserved anyway so why should we put our students through this? We, as teachers, want to see our students given a genuine opportunity to show what they have learned. I feel that they cannot do this with complicated over wordy questioning aligned with some abstract university type problems. Surely every student deserves simple language and somewhat relevant questions on their paper? Social media has allowed students to feedback openly on the new course. The idea of being able to write on the paper is clearly one they welcome. However, practical issues must also be considered: will the length of a student’s answer be influenced by the amount of space allocated for each sub question? Unfortunately, I think a weaker student could be drawn into the idea that a small amount of space for a question might mean a very short solution is required. Also, students must be given enough room to write their answers to a particular part of a question on the same or next page. Teaching challenges There is no doubt that teachers will need to adjust to this new practical way of teaching their subject. They will need to choose their books carefully and use a wider range of resources outside these books. They will need to think outside the box and try to bring some of these new topics to life using practical examples and real life demonstrations. They will need to be more ICT proficient; I believe the Department may need to look at some more Continuous Professional Development in maths specific ICT. One of the biggest challenges for the classroom maths teacher is time. At the moment, it is hard to gauge how much time to spend on each topic and sub topic. Teachers will learn, as each year passes, to structure the course better, including the topic order and timeline. They will learn to choose the best paths through each topic while keeping a closer eye on the syllabus than ever before. However, I believe the Leaving Certificate courses at both Higher and Ordinary Level in their current format may now be too long. Looking through the available exam papers, the length of some of the questions has increased significantly. Those schools that haven’t done so already may need to introduce a double maths class on their senior cycle timetable. In parallel, I envisage a situation where schools may start investing Transition Year maths time to teach some of the Project Maths syllabus and concepts. The marking scheme will be interesting too with the new credit system seeing students being marked from zero up. At present there are a number of graded versions inside the marking scheme. After seeing how this year’s papers were marked, many teachers I spoke to felt the Department hasn’t yet hit the target with the weighting of marks. Students and teachers need to be given more concrete information on how the exam is being assessed. I welcome the Department’s Initiative to create a “Professional Diploma in Mathematics” course. This is a free two year course to upskill maths teachers and to support the implementation of Project Maths. There is an incentive there for many maths teachers to improve their skills and the Department has, in fairness, improved the resources available to teachers via the Project Maths team. In general, we as maths teachers are still a little sceptical about Project Maths. There is also a concern about some topics that have been removed from the syllabus that may be necessary for some mathematically related university courses. In a survey of 253 members of the Irish Maths Teachers Association (IMTA), over 77 percent thought students would benefit if maths teaching in schools was combined with industrial visits to view real-life application of maths. The Government has little money to spend; industry must be encouraged to support the work of maths teachers as much as possible to bolster the effectiveness of Project Maths.

Project maths-the silver bullet or a step in the right direction?

Project maths-the silver bullet or a step in the right direction?
Project maths-the silver bullet or a step in the right direction?More details about Joe as a Maths Tutor for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate (2022), ACE Maths Assessments and Solution Books via the links below.