This year's Project Maths LC exam was only for the 24 schools that participated in the Project Maths pilot program. All other candidates took a paper based on the current syllabus.
Project Maths is being rolled out across all schools in September, but it will take several years before it replaces the current syllabus.
I'm going into TY now, and we're starting Leaving Cert Maths this year. We'll be doing the Honours course over three years...as is always the case in my school.
Put the statistics into Geography?
Isn't the whole point of CSPE to teach students to be informed citizens? Would that not be the perfect place to try out statistics?
Feel a bit disgruntled by the statistics bashing as I'm studying towards a degree in maths/stats (and am biased ) but geography??? Really? Statistics is much more than just census and population. Bayesian statistics are used by companies like Microsoft to make their software more 'intelligent'. Medical statistics are vitally important for drug companies. And so much more. And they all involve calculations, formulae, graphing etc. etc.
(Must go back and look at geography! Didn't do it in second level. Did get 100% in LC maths though!)
I'm really not convinced by the anti- Project Maths arguments at all. People are losing the rag everywhere because vectors and integration and stuff like that (I'm not sure of the exact details and I'm too lazy to check) are being taken off the course, but I really don't think this will do any damage.
The amount of vectors in Leaving Cert HL isn't huge, and the questions in the exams themselves are so formulaic and repetitive that you could answer it reasonably well without really understanding anything about vectors at all (I may or may not have done this myself). Mechanics at third level is (so I'm told) very similar to Leaving Cert Applied Maths. I didn't do Applied Maths, but in my experience the people who did were the ones who knew how to approach vectors when we first faced them in college. This will be no great loss, as far as I can see.
Same goes for matrices (AFAIK they are being taken off too). If anything, LC matrices were a hindrance to me- there wasn't a huge amount of time in 5th/6th year to explain the concept properly, and it was only when I did Linear Algebra in 1st year that I properly figured out what they were, what they could do, and how to use them. We covered everything taught at LC level in about a week or two anyway.
As for integration, I admit that I'm glad to have done it before facing it in college, but there were people in my calculus class who had never seen it before and they seem to have fared ok in the exams. In any case, if you go on to do a maths-intensive degree at third level, it is generally taught from first prinicples anyway, so it'll just be another thing to learn. That's what you do in college.
Personally, I think the extra statistical element is a good thing too. As with other parts of the current curriculum, the probability and statistics section can be rote learned without being understood to any significant degree. I certainly would like to have been taught the new stats section instead of the old one.
I don't think the Project Maths paper is any easier than the normal one. I had a look at it and I found some of the parts to be quite challenging actually. It's different all right, but I wouldn't say that it's much easier than the formulaic and predictable standard paper (which itself has a very easy Part A to every question, and generally a manageable Part B). Being perfectly honest, in general the people I see condemning Project Maths are themselves strong mathematicians, many of whom will find any maths exam easy. I get the impression that a lot of people are annoyed that their subject is being sullied by having some of the pure maths sections removed more than anything else.
I got a B2 in HL maths in 2009, and I did very well in 1st year Maths Science in UCC this year. I don't think that doing Project Maths would have made third level maths much more difficult for me. I'm sure I'm very much in the minority in my opinions here, but I feel like I need to voice the opinion of some who doesn't feel particularly confident in their mathematical abilities (despite still studying the subject). I don't think grades are being artificially raised at all.
When I first heard about bonus points for maths I was in support of the idea but with the change in syllabus to make the maths course more "user friendly" (not exactly easier), I'm not so sure.
Project maths was supposed to increase the uptake of higher level maths, I'm open to correction, as is the bonus points. Both of them seem to give the impression that maths is hard and rather than encourage students to take it up, I think it will do the opposite if anything.
I admit, I am rather biased as I really enjoyed the (occasional) challenge that came with honours maths. I did the leaving cert this year & was a little disappointed that the paper was quite easy, I felt a bit cheated, after the work I put in. That said, I was extremely happy with my result.
There's a bit of political history to this. In 2007, then-Minister for Education Mary Hanafin supported calls from industry leaders and business groups to reintroduce bonus points for HL maths (which had been abolished in 1994).
However, Hanafin's successor Batt O'Keefe took a different approach, voicing his "strong opposition" to bonus points, in favour of promoting the Project Maths initiative.
However, earlier this year, Mary Coughlan went back to supporting bonus points, seemingly in parallel with Project Maths.
So the proposals originally on the table were either to give bonus points for the existing syllabus, or or to attract more students to HL maths by removing some of the difficulty but emphasizing real-world problem solving.
Instead, we get a both/and solution.
The main thing I don't like about project maths is that knowledge of vectors and calculus were both assumed, and both used everywhere, in my first year of undergrad maths.
They shouldn't be removed. Extra stats might be fine for some, but I think in a subject called mathematics, you would expect to be taught the main mathematical tools for understanding our world, not just the ones that are easiest to 'get'.
Well, this would be the perspective of a mathematician. But politicians generally aren't mathematicians, and the only statistics they care about are ones that make them look good.
In order to salvage the myth of a knowledge economy driven by an army of mathematically and scientifically literate young people, politicians need to increase the number of students taking HL maths, and need to reduce the numbers failing maths. The single most expedient way to do that is to make the maths easier, and the most effective way to do that is to get rid of the areas in which students struggle.
I actually think calculus is very important, and can be a useful tool in understanding the world. I was watching a TED video on society collapse by Jared Diamond yesterday, for instance, and he made reference to the rate of change of a thing (he specifically said "first and second derivative"). Mr Diamond wasn't using actual mathematics; he was just using the concept.
Even for those who won't go on to use it directly, I think mathematics is important because it develops a logical and methodical way of thinking that is highly beneficial.
Let's get one thing clear at least. Calculus is NOT being removed from the syllabus, as anyone who bothers to actually read the syllabus will see.
There is still differential calculus on the ordinary level syllabus, and there is still both differential and integral calculus on the higher level.
The syllabus is here:
It seems to me that what's changing is that the emphasis is moving from being able to aimlessly differentiate or integrate gazillions of weird and wonderful functions to actually apply the skills a bit more often in a meaningful way.
And the removal of vectors could hardly be described as taking one of the hard bits off. My students never had any great trouble with it. The problem with it as it stands in the old course is that it doesn't get sufficiently well developed to do anything really useful with it, as it wasn't well integrated with the other topics. To solve this problem would have involved expanding the course, so I can understand why they decided to drop it. If you can't do it right, then don't do it at all, and spend your time developing something else properly. Second level students only ever get to see vectors doing something useful in applied maths, and there's no reason why they can't continue to live a long and happy life on that syllabus.
MathsManiac - I agree with you about vectors, and in fact I would use the same argument to justify removal of matrices from the Leaving Cert course as well - neither are sufficiently well developed to the point where the student can do anything meaningful.
Looking at the paper 2 sample, I like the focus on being able to read, interpret, and understand statistical distributions - and I would welcome this. Overall though, many of the questions look very, very basic.
I am an engineer myself, not a math expert but v. interested in math etc. and doing hons LC maths with my kids at home. I find it striking that my kids have
- no 'feel' for the subject. When they work through a problem & get an answer - no idea if it right, wrong, or even in the ballpark.
- no liking for the subject. (They find subjects like business & geography interesting for example, but not math)
I believe that the rot starts at primary school level. There is insufficient value/emphasis placed on math at that stage and I think it is unrealistic to get teens to engage with the subject if they have not had a rewarding & pleasurable experience of it as children.
I'm not sure what the aims of the curriculum are. My opinion would be that if the goal is simply to boost uptake of mathematics, particularly at higher level, and possibly increase the numeracy of the general population, Project Maths may succeed, but if the goal of reforming the course is to encourage more students to study maths at third level, then I feel a better approach would have been to develop the concepts further, particularly vectors.
In Mathematics in Trinity, statistics is only compulsory for one semester, so I don't feel increasing the amount of it in the Leaving Certificate serves this need.
Is it any wonder, when so many primary school teachers have significant difficulties themselves with mathematics?
I think it's completely mad that you only need an ordinary level D3 to get into primary teaching.
The typical entrant to primary teaching these days is a reasonably intelligent person, scoring CAO points in the high 400s at least. Yet only a minority of these have done higher maths.
Higher level maths (C3 at least, and that's the rock bottom in my view) should be an entry requirement to primary teaching. There might then be some hope for the future.
I very much agree with this. There are far too many primary teachers who are scared of the subject, and will pass that fear on to their students at a very early age.
One month into this new Project Maths with the first years and it sucks a**!!!!