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Issues in Educational Research, 2020, Vol 30(4), 1418-1441.
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What's the point? Impact of Ireland's bonus points initiative on student profile in mathematics classrooms

Niamh O'Meara
University of Limerick, Ireland

Mark Prendergast
University College Cork, Ireland

Páraic Treacy
University of Brighton, UK

In 2012 mathematics was assigned a special status within the Irish post-primary school curriculum with the introduction of a bonus points initiative (BPI). Students are now awarded additional credit in their upper post-primary school state examination results if they achieve a passing grade in mathematics at higher level. This extra credit will increase the likelihood of these students securing a place on the third-level course of their choice. This incentive was introduced to encourage students to study mathematics at higher level. Anecdotally there have been mixed reviews about the success of the BPI. While the numbers taking higher level mathematics have increased steadily, there have been concerns that many students who are not capable of performing up to the standard required are now opting for the higher level paper and the difficulty of this examination and the marking schemes have been adjusted accordingly. This paper reports on a national study, the first of its kind, that was conducted to investigate teachers' perspectives (N = 266) on the BPI. The authors investigate if the increase in the number of students studying higher level mathematics in Ireland has occurred in tandem with an increase in the mathematical proficiency of students and they ascertain the impact of the BPI on the profile of higher level mathematics classes.
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Authors: Dr Niamh O'Meara (corresponding author) is a lecturer in mathematics education in the University of Limerick. Niamh is based in EPI*STEM, the national centre for STEM education. She is a qualified mathematics teacher and her research interests include teacher knowledge, curricular issues in mathematics education and improving attitudes and performance in mathematics.
Email: niamh.omeara@ul.ie

Dr Mark Prendergast is a senior lecturer in mathematics education in the University College Cork. He is a qualified secondary level mathematics teacher and his research interests include teacher education, mathematics education, and working with non-traditional students.
Email: mark.prendergast@ucc.ie

Dr Páraic Treacy, formerly at University of Brighton (UK) and University of Limerick (Ireland) is currently an assistant professor at the Emirates College for Advanced Education in Abu Dhabi. His qualifications include a PhD in Mathematics Education, BSc in Physical Education and Mathematics, and a Senior Fellowship of the HEA (UK). His research interests include integrating mathematics with other subjects; mathematics curriculum change; and student transition from second to third level mathematics study.
Email: paraic.treacy@ecae.ac.ae

Please cite as: O'Meara, N., Prendergast, M. & Treacy, P. (2020). What's the point? Impact of Ireland's bonus points initiative on student profile in mathematics classrooms. Issues in Educational Research, 30(4), 1418-1441. http://www.iier.org.au/iier30/omeara.pdf

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Created 10 Dec 2020. Last correction: 10 Dec 2020.
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