What is Project Maths?

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) formed 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)

(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).

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.


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 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.


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.

Checkout this link for a Teachers Perspective on Project Maths: