Project Maths fails to make grade in Leaving

Students not achieving honours grades despite introduction of new syllabus

Guidance Counsellor and Assistant Principal at Oatlands College Brian Mooney has advice for pupils receiving Leaving Certificate results who may not be happy with their grades.


Leaving Cert results to be released today indicate that the controversial new Project Maths syllabus is failing to boost student maths skills.

It is not helping students achieve honours grades in the subject, according to the results released this morning by the State Examinations Commission.

The proportion* of students achieving an honour in higher level Leaving Cert maths has fallen by more than 10 per cent – from 83.3 to 72.9 per cent – in the first year of the new Project Maths syllabus.

In a statement, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn praised students in a statement for their hard work and commitment, and celebrated the fact that the numbers of students taking higher level maths had reached an all-time high at 26 per cent.

He attributed the gains to the 25 bonus points now awarded for a pass in higher maths, but also to the impact of the Project Maths syllabus. This, however, is not borne out in the Leaving results.

Failure rates
Project Maths, which was introduced in response to concerns about high failure rates in the subject and which is based on real-world applications, formed the basis of most of this year’s exam paper, with only some questions from the old syllabus.

The new course has proven to be highly divisive.

The number of students taking higher level maths has risen by more than 50 per cent since the reintroduction of bonus points in 2012. But many students will be disappointed to have missed out on a coveted A, B, or C grade.

Higher level maths
A-grades at higher level maths rose slightly, from 10 to 10.9 per cent, but so did the failure rate, which increased from 2.3 per cent in 2012 to 3.4 per cent.

There are also some indications that Project Maths may not have benefitted ordinary level students, with the number of students achieving an A, B, or C grade falling from 66.1 per cent in 2012 to 64.4 per cent in 2013.

The failure rate stayed steady at 9.4 per cent. Separately, students in 24 schools sat a pilot paper which was entirely based on Project Maths.

The honours rate here was slightly lower again, with 72.4 per cent of these students achieving an A, B, or C grade at higher level. However, these students had half the failure rate of the general cohort, at 1.7 per cent.

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