New Innovators: Engineers Ireland

Engineers Ireland director general John Power: focus of the free maths tutorials is on teaching maths in the broadest sense, not on cramming for the Leaving Cert

Engineers Ireland director general John Power: focus of the free maths tutorials is on teaching maths in the broadest sense, not on cramming for the Leaving Cert

Mon, Jun 10, 2013, 01:00

It has always been a struggle for parents and teachers to convince Leaving Certificate students to opt for higher level maths.

Keen to do its bit to help, Engineers Ireland decided to harness the skills within its membership to offer free maths tutorials to senior cycle students.

The initiative kicked off with a six-week pilot run in Dublin in 2010 and was so enthusiastically received the length of the programme was extended to 27 weeks in 2011, and tutorial groups were set up in Cork and Galway.

The tutorials were also launched online. Registrations for the coming autumn open in August and there is also a Dublin-based programme for Junior Certificate students.

The tutorials are taught by 22 chartered engineers who give their time on a voluntary basis. Roughly 400 students attended the weekly tutorials in 2011/2012, with more than 9,000 more viewing them on line.

“We have been very fortunate with our tutors, who are very engaged with the topics and really get the students enthused,” says John Power, director general of Engineers Ireland.

“Our online tutor is incredibly enthusiastic about his subject and his passion for maths is infectious.”

What makes the Engineers Ireland tutorials different to traditional “grinds” is the focus is on teaching maths in the broadest sense, not on cramming for the Leaving Cert.

“The idea is to help the students build up a tool kit of knowledge that lets them figure problems out for themselves. Basically, it’s maths as a life skill,” explains Power.

“We don’t set any homework and there are no tests. The onus is on the students to attend and make the most of what’s on offer. We’re not trying to make engineers out of everyone.

“The aim was to help improve the maths knowledge base, open up the widest possible career opportunities for students and get across the fact that maths play a part in everyone’s life in some shape or form.”

Engineers Ireland doesn’t make anything from the tutorials. In fact, John Power estimates it costs the organisation about €50,000 a year to run them.

He is not adverse to the idea of sharing the burden with a corporate partner but for now he is happy that his organisation is sharing its technical knowledge and making it possible for families hard hit by the recession to tap into free tuition for their children.

Power says the initiative is also designed to help schools lacking the resources to support students wishing to study higher level maths.

Engineers Ireland is represented in 11 regions across Ireland and the plan is to expand the geographical spread of tutorial centres. Two new locations are in the pipeline for September 2013.

OLIVE KEOGH

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