Two years ago this month I gave my opinion on the state of Mathematics education in Ireland. In my post I predicted that our drive towards the new Maths syllabus would cause us to increase in our PISA rankings. But this was a bit of a hack. Anyway. My opinion being that this change in syllabus would eventually filter down to Primary school and up to Third level. I predicted that although our PISA rankings would go up we would see problems at Third level. No PISA yet but we have TIMSS. And some bad omens are showing.
In TIMSS we see Ireland has shot up the rankings and is top at Fourth Class and Second Year. This is to be expected, and this is pointing towards an upgrading in PISA sometime soon however it is worth noting some interesting things from TIMSS, such as the following:
Now that is rather interesting. Here we can see the the top students are not doing as well as they could be. It would seem the new strategy has benefited the bottom (and middle?) but not the top. This is not a surprise! Not in the slightest. This was a critique of the proposed new syllabus. Indeed in one report it was noted regarding strand 5 (Functions, Calculus, Etc.) that “This material will not challenge Higher Level students.” This strand is the most important strand for higher level students. Functions, Calculus, Vectors, etc. etc. is the bread and butter of what happens at Third level. Material like Euclidean Geometry and Stem and Leaf plots are not.
Note DIAS felt that the gap was so big it should offer a top-up course: “Due to the recent changes in the Leaving Certificate mathematics curriculum (Project Maths), the amount of calculus taught has been severely reduced. As this subject is essential for preparation to Third Level courses in Mathematics, Science and Engineering (as well as Economics) and in order to give students with an aptitude for mathematics the opportunity to prepare themselves better for further study, a 10-week course on Mathematical Calculus will be given by Prof. T. C. Dorlas at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies on Saturdays before Christmas, beginning on 1st October.”
So, we have system which is not geared towards the top students who will go on to do top Maths. And it will continue like this for some time, sadly.