390 teachers have enrolled in the Professional Diploma in Mathematics for Teaching, which was launched in May 2012. This is the first group of students to take the course.
The provision of this course, which is receiving over €2 million in Government funding, is part of the Government’s strategy to improve the teaching and learning of maths. It was rolled out following recommendations made by the Project Maths Implementation Support Group in 2010.
The Group stated that: “The Department of Education and Skills should work towards ensuring that all post primary students at all levels are taught mathematics solely by teachers who hold a qualification in mathematics by 2018. Post graduate courses for existing teachers should be provided on a scale and level commensurate with this objective”.
According to the Department, the course is “a blended programme based on a part-time (2 year) university accredited professional diploma, delivered locally and through online modules”. It is available free of charge to ‘out-of-field’ teachers of maths nationwide.
It is envisaged that the course, which is accredited jointly by the University of Limerick (UL) and the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG), will run for 3 years. The initial response has been positive and according to Minister Sherlock, “some 750 applications” were received.
The Government has taken a number of measures in recent years to improve maths skills a primary and post-primary level:
STEM Career Week, an initiative of Smart Futures, was launched last week. Smart Futures is a national career campaign and website for second-level students in Ireland, which seeks to promote the uptake of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) as subject choices, while also highlighting the range of different career types available in science related subjects.
Another recent initiative by the Government was the awarding of 25 bonus points to students who took Higher Level Maths at Leaving Certificate Level and received a a D3 or higher in that subject. 2012 marked the first year of this system and saw the percentage of students opting for the Maths Higher Level paper rise from 15.8 (2011), to 22.1 (2012).