TD queries marking of Project Maths in Leaving


THE CONTROVERSY over the new Project Maths course has deepened after a Fine Gael TD questioned the marking of this year’s Leaving Cert exam paper.

Mary Mitchell O’Connor said the marking scheme for the higher-level paper awarded up to 75 per cent of the marks for the “easiest” sections of the paper, with the more difficult sections receiving a small amount of the possible total.

Ms Mitchell O’Connor, a former school principal, said marking did not give brighter maths students a chance to shine and did not always reflect the true ability of students. Many questions were unanswered, she added, about why so many marks were awarded for some sections and so few for others.

Her comments could confirm the fears of those who believe the new programme represents a serious “dumbing down” of standards in maths.

This year, all students were for the first time examined on some elements of the Project Maths course. The new course will be rolled out to all schools in 2014. It is designed to arrest the decline in numbers taking maths by providing a less “bookish” and a more practical “user-friendly” approach.

Leaving Cert maths results this year were strong. Numbers failing fell significantly, while 83 per cent of mainstream higher-level maths students scored an A, B or C.

“Despite the fact that this year saw a dramatic fall in the number of students failing Leaving Certificate maths and record numbers taking the higher-level paper,” Ms Mitchell O’Connor said, “the marking scheme which was adopted has left many in doubt about its suitability and whether or not it is doing a disservice to our students.

“For example, question eight . . . saw 55 out of a possible 75 marks being attributed to part A of the question, which is generally considered to be less difficult than sections B and C, both of which received just five marks each. Section D of the same question was awarded 10 out of 75 marks.

“I have been informed by a corrector of this paper that the marking system for this question was changed drastically because the results were so dismal.

“Where question three of the same paper was concerned, 15 out of 25 marks were awarded in one part for ‘any reasonable first step’, with the more difficult parts being given a ‘mid-partial credit’ of just five extra marks. In some cases, 10 marks out of a possible 25 were awarded for ‘any work of merit’.”