Analysing the correlation between secondary mathematics curriculum change and trends in beginning undergraduates’ performance of basic mathematical skills in Ireland

Páraic Treacy, Fiona Faulkner, Mark Prendergast

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The phenomenon in which students enter university under-prepared for the mathematical demands of their undergraduate courses, regularly referred to as the ‘Maths Problem’, has been widely reported in Ireland, UK, Australia, and the US. This issue has been of particular concern in Ireland recently, with beginning undergraduates’ performance of basic mathematical skills showing signs of significant decline in recent years. New mathematics curricula, commonly referred to as ‘Project Maths’, were gradually introduced into the Irish secondary school education system from 2010 onwards. These new curricula aim to place greater emphasis on student understanding of mathematical concepts, use of contexts, and applications of mathematics. This study analyses, through mathematics diagnostic test data gathered between 2008 and 2014, the change in the basic mathematical skills of beginning undergraduates over the time period in which the new mathematics curricula were introduced to secondary education in Ireland. It was found that students’ basic mathematical skills have declined over the time period during which the new mathematics curricula were introduced. Significant declines in beginning undergraduates’ performance of basic mathematical skills were observed during the period 2008–2014, particularly among students who have achieved Higher Level C grades and Higher Level D grades.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-401
Number of pages21
JournalIrish Educational Studies
Volume35
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2016

Keywords

  • basic mathematical skills
  • curriculum change
  • mathematical competencies
  • mathematical under-preparedness
  • Project Maths

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