Maths honours and primary teaching


Sir, – May I loudly applaud the announcement by the Minister for Education that entry to primary teaching training courses will in future require grade C in honours mathematics?

At the moment, such entrants require a mere C grade in pass mathematics. The level of mathematical ability required to achieve this is risible, to say the least. How can such people promote a love of and enthusiasm for the subject? Indeed there is much anecdotal evidence to support the view that many primary teachers do not have any such enthusiasm and merely teach the minimum required as a formality.

Why should entry to primary teaching courses at the moment require honours Irish but not honours mathematics or honours English, when these are the two most critical subjects at primary level for the success of the Numeracy and Literacy Programme? Those who study mathematics to honours level tend to have a true love of the subject and this will naturally flow to their pupils.

As a very recently retired mathematics teacher at second level, I have noticed a very poor quality of mathematical ability and understanding of the subject among the cohort of pupils arriving into secondary school each year.

Much of our time as first year mathematics teachers is spent teaching pupils a catch-up of the skills they are meant to have learned and brought with them from primary school level.

For once, the Minister deserves our plaudits, since he is now acting as a visionary leader rather than a politician. His decision will have no immediate electoral benefit for him or for his party, but will bring immeasurable benefits to the future Irish educational system, to our future students and consequently to Ireland’s economy. Yours, etc,


Ayrefield Drive,

Dublin 13

Sir, – I note with some bewilderment that Sheila Nunan, general secretary of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, said at their annual conference on Tuesday that “It was the boys who did the honours maths [who] led the country to ruination.” So I see we are still holding with the practice of keeping the entire class back to write lines for the transgressions of a few. Yours, etc,