Minister defends maths syllabus

Proportion* of honours is down but Ruairí Quinn claims student performance has improved

The Minister for Education has strongly defended the Project Maths syllabus, claiming it was improving student performance in the subject and making it more accessible.

His comments came yesterday as more than 56,000 students across Ireland received their Leaving Cert results. Overall, students seemed satisfied with the 2013 figures and the marks given were met with a generally positive response.

A key aspect of the results was the continuing surge in the numbers of students choosing to take higher maths, a decision which opens the possibility of winning 25 CAO bonus points.

Twinned with this is the ongoing impact of the Project Maths syllabus, whether it is fulfilling its aim to encourage more students to study maths and improve their performance in the subject.

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A fall in the proportion* of honours given for 2013, as seen in this year’s figures, implies student performance has not improved, but Ruairí Quinn disagrees.

"The story of maths is a good news story for Leaving Cert students and for the country. More students than ever are taking maths at higher level which is what everybody wants," he told The Irish Times.

“Young people are very smart and have decided to take a punt on sitting the higher-level paper so they will get 25 bonus points for a grade D or better.

“Many of those now taking higher-level maths would previously have sat the ordinary paper and perhaps got an A or a B. And the good news is that it has paid off for them because 96 per cent of those taking the higher-level paper got the 25 bonus points they deserved,” the Minister added.

He went on: "If you look in detail at the figures, the numbers who achieved an A grade at the higher level rose from 1,103 in 2011 to 1,418 this year. Over the same period the numbers achieving A, B or C grades rose from 6,662 to 9,485 – an increase of 42 per cent.

'Right direction'

“The results show that we are moving in the right direction. Already industry groups, such as Engineers Ireland, are welcoming the rise in students taking higher-level maths which provides them with the problem-solving and mathematical abilities increasingly demanded in growing sections of our economy. ”

Science Foundation Ireland welcomed the increase in students who are deciding to take higher maths and science subjects.

Science and maths courses "offer a solid educational base fostering lateral and analytical thinking, which people need throughout all careers", said the foundation's director general, Prof Mark Ferguson.

* This article was amended on Thursday, August 15th, 2013.

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