Information Leaflet on Project Maths Inception 2010
Project Maths is an NCCA led project which signifies the most fundamental change to maths teaching and learning at second level since the 1960s. Project Maths is being phased in over a number of years. The project will be rolled out nationwide in September 2010, at both first and fifth year in every school.
Project Maths began as a result of concerns about:
the level of performance of Irish students in the international context (PISA);
the relatively small number of students taking the exam at higher level Leaving Cert;
evidence that students were not able to apply mathematical knowledge and skills, except in the most practised way and in familiar contexts;
the difficulties students had in coping with mathematics at third level;
employers contending that Irish students have good knowledge but poor understanding and lack problem solving skills;
the need to supply qualified people in the area of maths and science for the knowledge economy.
The maths teachers in all schools have received their first two rounds of training a year in advance of introduction. The training for all maths teachers will continue for a further three years. The Department of Education and Skills (DES) is fully committed to providing this support for teacher professional development throughout the implementation phase. The project is fully funded by the DES.
In September 2010, the introduction of Strand 1 (statistics and probability) and strand 2 (geometry and trigonometry) will form the first stage in a phased introduction of revised syllabuses in maths over a three year period. All five strands have been completed by the NCCA’s mathematics committees.
There is a change in the type of exam questions asked, with one section on contexts and applications which focuses on students’ ability to apply mathematical knowledge. This will allow teachers to focus on the problem solving skills of students rather than entirely on rote learning and practising algorithms for answering exam questions. The teachers in the 24 pilot schools have been very positive about this change in emphasis.
The State Exams Commission (SEC) trialled a sample paper at each syllabus level in October 2009 from which it developed the official sample papers. These sample papers can be viewed on the SEC website at www.examinations.ie (follow the link for Project Maths). NCCA provided a Pre-Leaving set of exam papers with solutions and mark schemes for the 24 schools and these are now available at www.ncca.ie/projectsmaths.
Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate exams remain. When the change in mathematics is complete there will not be a choice of questions in examinations. This will ensure full coverage of course material and the same mathematical experience for all students. These changes ensure no major topic area will be ignored. Questions will test students ability to think, problem solve and apply mathematical knowledge. Take a look at the sample papers on www.examinations.ie and follow the link for the report of the trialling to see comments on some examples of student work.
In the classroom
The changes brought about by the teachers in methodology in the initial 24 schools has been received in a positive way by students, particularly by junior cycle who would have been used to active methodologies in primary school.
A bridging framework is being put in place to allow teachers to connect with what students have learned in primary and to give a lens to primary teachers whose students in 5th and 6th classes are starting to think in terms of second level.”We’re using dice, coins and cards in our probability class,” explains 16-year-old Rebecca Evans of Moate Community School, one of the 24 pilot schools in the Project Maths programme. “Two of us roll the dice 50 times each and record our findings. It’s great to be working in teams in maths class.”
(Article published in Irish Times 10/12/08)”The change in teaching methodology is bringing the class alive for the students… It’s more active as there’s greater student participation. The students are actually saying it’s ‘fun’, so different to the way that they’re used to,” says Helen Lambe, Maths teacher at St Patricks College for Girls, Cork, one of the initial twenty four schools.
(Article published in Evening Echo 13/2/09)There is a Common Introductory Course for all students who begin maths at second level. Research tells us that students experience difficulty in maths when transferring to second level -this common course will ease this transition.
This project has succeeded in bringing together all expertise in the teaching of maths in Ireland. The DES and SEC are working directly with NCCA. The National Centre for Excellence in Maths and Science Teaching and Learning (NCE-MSTL) are providing training in strand 1 and strand 2 directly for teachers through summer courses, from which additional resources for teachers are developed. They also trained local facilitators who, in collaboration with the Irish Maths Teachers Association (I.M.T.A), can deliver supplementary courses nationally on a part-time basis.
NCCA has developed resources which are available on line. These resources are for Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate students studying strand 1 and strand 2.
On-line tutorials for students are available on NCCA’s Action website at www.action.ncca/projectmaths
The Project Maths Development Team (PMDT) have a dedicated website at www.projectmaths.ie which has a range of resources for both students and teachers.
NCCA has briefed the publishers of maths text books on a regular basis and they are preparing textbooks which will be available shortly.
Project Maths will place Irish students in a more favourable position internationally. The syllabus development draws on consultation and research conducted in Ireland and internationally.
Review of Mathematics Education, a discussion paper outlining some of the issues of concern, was published by NCCA in 2005. A questionnaire sought the views of students, teachers, principals, parents, lecturers and employers.
Independent research on trends in post-primary mathematics education was commissioned by NCCA in 2005 and a report by Conway and Sloane was published in 2006 (International Trends in Post-Primary Mathematics Education).
Good practice in mathematics teaching in other countries was also examined. The focus was on the countries that perform better in international studies (PISA, TIMSS). These countries are Finland, South Korea, Holland and Japan.
NCCA has brought together best practice from around the world and tailored it for the modern Irish school. We have retained what is seen as valuable from the past and blended it with what is viewed as essential for the future.
Part of this process has included taking into consideration the perspectives of third level institutions in Ireland, IBEC, Engineers Ireland and multi-nationals operating in Ireland. The NCCA’s representative structures mean that many of these organisations are directly represented on Council and/or its committees.
It is the stated aim of Project Maths to raise the mathematical ability of students at second level in Ireland both in a national and international context.
It is expected over the lifetime of the project to see participation levels increase at higher level for both Junior Certificate (the target is 60%) and Leaving Certificate (a target of 30%). This is ambitious but, with a robust syllabus, authentic assessment and an enthusiastic cohort of teachers, these levels are attainable.