Computer science and Leaving Cert

 

Sir, – The review of the Leaving Cert applied maths course (“Plan for Leaving Cert computer science module ‘tokenistic’”, January 8th) is welcome indeed, as the current content is too narrowly focused on mathematical physics (beautiful as that subject is) and does little to portray the wide scope of modern applied mathematics, with applications in diverse areas in finance, fluid engineering, systems biology, climate modelling and so on. The new specification proposed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) aims to address this issue.

In a rather deft move on the part of the NCCA, the proposed new specification aims simultaneously to address a skills gap that has arguably opened up as a result of the (well-intentioned) introduction of Project Maths. Thus, the new specification aims to strengthen the mathematical capabilities of those second-level students who wish to pursue a Stem subject (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) at third level. From my own experience as a third-level lecturer, I anticipate that this would greatly enhance the students’ engagement with Stem subjects at third level and therefore soften the transition between second and third levels.

Finally, even the introduction of computational science may not be so problematic, so long as the focus here is on the connection between computation and applications in scientific modelling and simulation, leaving “pure” computer science to be introduced as a possible standalone subject in the future. Using open-source programming platforms and computer hardware such as the exciting (and very cheap) Raspberry Pi computer, a module along these lines could in fact be delivered in the vast majority of secondary schools with only modest investment in equipment. The open-source principle, while not only cheap and cheerful, also reflects current best practice in scientific computing.

Thus, there are many exciting possibilities in play, giving the NCCA an excellent opportunity to fashion an applied maths curriculum consistent with the needs of Irish students and society and better reflective of modern trends in applied and computational mathematics. – Yours, etc,

LENNON Ó NARAIGH,

Lecturer,

Applied and Computational

Mathematics,

School of Mathematical

Sciences,

University College Dublin.