‘Stigma’ attached to enjoying maths

By Lauren Kelly

A DCU Professor suggests that a possible reason behind the current ‘Maths crisis’ is the stigma attached to students who enjoy Maths.

Speaking to The College View, Head of DCU’s School of Mathematics, Professor Eugene O’ Riordan believes that “ it is more popular to declare ‘I am no good at Maths’ than to be a nerd and say ‘I love Maths’’.

He thinks that the maths crisis “ may depend on how much time is spent studying mathematics”.

Many students fail first year maths modules in DCU and as a result many drop out of their course.

In most cases, students failing maths modules are not using the resources provided within the School of Mathematics.

Professor O’ Riordan believes that it is important for students to find the correct balance between the books and having a good social life.

Education Minister Ruairí Quinn is under pressure to combat the current ‘maths crisis’ in second level education. After a survey was carried out by the Teaching Council, it was revealed that over 30 percent of maths teachers are under qualified.

The study showed that the teachers had studied maths for one year within their chosen third level degree. There are over 4,100 qualified teachers in Irish schools with 730 retiring in February before changes to public service pensions set in. Teachers with a post graduate degree in Mathematics are also deemed qualified.


In an exclusive interview in this newspaper today, President of DCU, Brian MacCraith said that the Maths crisis is ‘‘rather than reflected in results from courses that include maths it’s reflected on the numbers taking some of our degree programmes. We could fill a lot more positions in our degree programmes if there was a better capability and more students taking higher level maths at second level.’’

MacCraith blames the Leaving Cert curriculum and method of assessment for poor results in Maths.

‘‘Many of the students coming in here have not been given the proper preparation for university education in terms of critical thinking, innovative thinking, numeracy and literacy. It’s not a reflection on the quality of the students, but a combination of factors that are not giving students the best chance.’’

This years maths Leaving Certificate results were criticised after 4,000 students failed the subject and only 10,000 attempted the higher level paper.

Minister for State, Research and Innovation, Séan Sherlock has announced a new training programme to help up-skill unqualified maths teachers.

The Maths Learning Centre in DCU opens Monday to Friday offering extra support to maths students.

Aims of the Centre include: “helping students who may have gaps in their mathematical knowledge, helping the transition from secondlevel education to third-level and to develop the mathematical knowledge, skills and confidence that are needed by DCU undergraduate students” DCU website.

Professor O’ Riordan hopes that Minister Quinn “can continue in his efforts to develop CPD courses for maths teachers, to gain support from the wider public to aim for high standards in maths and to encourage Irish society to have a more positive view of mathematics”.

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