Belfast Telegraph

Maths students 'need field trips'

Maths teachers have called for more field trips to cement progress in pioneering education of the subject in schools.

More than half have yet to be convinced that the Project Maths system alone will improve exam results, a survey of 253 members of the Irish Maths Teachers Association (IMTA) found.

Dominic Guinan, the group's chair, said he was not discouraged by the figures, considering the scheme is in its early years.

"I am not surprised by the results of this important survey. Indeed I feel that the 43% of teachers who believe that Project Maths will improve maths achievement is encouraging," he said. "This is the first year of the full implementation of the initiative and to have reached a 43% approval so soon, when it will take seven to 10 years at least for the Project Maths course to bed in, gives me great hope for its success."

The survey, by Engineers Ireland, found 77% of teachers think students will benefit if maths teaching is combined with industrial visits to view real-life applications of the subject.

Around 84% of maths teachers think the subject should get greater priority in the curriculum to support the future skills needs of the economy and three-quarters said there should be more focus on maths at Junior Cycle.

John Power, Engineers Ireland director general, said the need to combine maths teaching in schools with other initiatives must be addressed.

"Clearly, a huge focus has been put on improving maths results amongst our students. For the new Project Maths curriculum to receive such little enthusiasm from our maths educators is a concern," he said. "Engineers Ireland supports any improvements in maths education and we hope to discuss with the IMTA about how we can best support its members when we analyse the detailed responses in depth."

The survey suggests that external support for teachers could make an impact, Mr Power said. "We must be realistic. The British Government has little money to spend. Therefore it is incumbent on industry to support the work of maths teachers as much as possible to bolster the effectiveness of the Project Maths roll-out. We must do everything we can to help more students engage with higher-level maths so we can produce the engineers and business leaders of tomorrow."

The revised Project Maths syllabus was piloted in 24 schools in 2008. The first two strands of the system were then offered nationally for incoming first-year and fifth-year students in September 2010.

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