Thanks for that link. I will check it out.

I think there is an initiative – “project maths” that aims to move the syllabus in that direction.

]]>Kevin,

You’ve prompted a couple of thoughts. Firstly, there’s a memory of mine. I was in the old CoT, Kevin Street and my maths teacher, seeing that I wasn’t getting the point of it all, asked me to integrate the expression for a circle. Hey,interesting! Then she asked me to integrate again. Wow! She asked could I see that it was practical and useful? I said, “propellars!” I realised that here was a real teacher and I could have done with her at secondary school.

Secondly, your point about grouping for specialist application has raised a thought: that one could have a syllabus for, let’s call it, “citizen maths” because … well no, I’ll stop. That would take an essay and it’s way past midnight.

]]>Yes I completely misunderstood.

I reckon that there is a heterogeneity in people’s numerate ability. A candidate might do poorly in one type of syllabus ( e.g. Calculus ) but might do better in another (e.g. Statistics).

To be awarded the Royal Statistical society graduate diploma, Candidates had to pass five 3 hour exams.

The fifth paper was an Options paper covering specialist applications. It consisted of half-syllabuses in Economics Stats, Econometrics,

OR, Medical Stats, and Industrial stats. Each candidate had to answer questions from two of these half-syllabuses.

Maybe we could try something similar with the applied maths paper, making Mechanics and Statics into two of many half-syllabuses.

]]>Kevin,

You misunderstand me or rather I seem to have misled you. My point IS that EVERYONE needs mathematical skills AND what I’m trying to summarise as basic science/technology skills. My difficulty is that the present panic re maths looks only to higher maths and the route to maths, engineering and science degrees.

It should not be possible to enter ANY degree course having failed or failed to do maths.

You’ll find that the majority of lecturers in the humanities will lament illiteracy, many will lament lack of general knowledge but too few speak immediately of the maths problem. You’ll find some examples of maths ignorance affecting the humanities in here:

http://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/increased-emphasis-on-vocational-education-is-a-pretty-bad-idea-now/

Frankly, it’s just not possible to be a competent person without maths.

A more sensible response just now is not a demand for bonus points but a requirement that all potential students at least pass maths.

]]>The Applied Maths course is a bit of a misnomer in the sense thats its just Classical Mechanics (the last time I checked, anyway). Nothing wrong with that of course but there is a Physics paper. Perhaps it could be re-invented taking on broader applications like discrete mathematics, information theory, some optimization problems, stuff that actually gets used by applied mathematicians.

]]>Almost every area considered to be part of the “knowledge economy” relies, to some extent, on mathematical skills.

Considering the mathematical content of nearly every science and technology degree program, I have absolutely no doubt about the need for our school leavers to have a proper mathematical skills base.

I notice you specifically refer to the higher level leaving certificate in your “comforting nonsense” comment, which I feel is unjustifiable.

In the higher level syllabus, there is arguably a slight over-emphasis on calculus. Some have suggested a second parallel maths course that has focuses on management science, statistics and probability. As well as being a usefuls skills set for the knowledge economy, there are less of the “greek squiggles” that seem to put some students off.

]]>The idea that the “smart economy” needs graduates in maths and science and that we therefore need to ensure more people take and achieve in higher level maths is comforting nonsense.

Just for now, let’s leave the question of employment aside. The kind of society – and industry – which is emerging means that someone without a fairly good grasp of maths, science/technology, English and general knowledge cannot function fully as a citizen. It is daft to think that someone can gain entry to ANY university course having failed or not taken maths and a science/technology subject. Don’t get me started on illiterates with a result in hons English!

The primary and secondary systems are not delivering on the basic requirements of mass education and pretending that the problem is specific to mathematics and within that, to getting a few more to be successful at higher maths, just will not do.

Here’s something written in response to the same debate in 2008,

http://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2008/08/13/numeracy-and-literacy-the-poor-debate-around-leaving-cert-2008/

Here’s something more recent which includes a list of some basics which many students lack,

http://colummccaffery.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/increased-emphasis-on-vocational-education-is-a-pretty-bad-idea-now/

From the look of the situation there is always plenty of time to waffle.

What the points bump will do is incentivise those able to, to put in extra effort to get extra points increasing their benefits.

But what about those who arent able to, or are of questionable ability?

There will be little to no benefit to these people, the people who go to school to learn in the first place.

Students, i think they called.