IIER logo 4
Issues in Educational Research, 2023, Vol 33(1), 227-246.
[ Contents Vol 33 ] [ IIER Home ]

Mathematics in Ireland's upper secondary schools: Why do students choose higher-level maths?

Niamh O'Meara
University of Limerick, Ireland

Mark Prendergast
University College Cork, Ireland

Páraic Treacy
Mary Immaculate College, Ireland

There is a body of research which highlights the importance of students studying mathematics at an advanced level, hence policy-makers worldwide look for ways to increase the uptake of advanced mathematics. In Ireland, the Government announced the introduction of a Bonus Points Initiative which came into effect in 2012, in an attempt to increase the number of Senior Cycle students opting to study higher-level mathematics and to improve Irish students' mathematical capabilities. Despite a rise in the number of students studying higher-level mathematics, very little research has been conducted to determine if it was the Bonus Points initiative, a reformed mathematics curriculum, or other factors that led to the surge in uptake. To address this gap in the research, this study investigates Irish students' reasons for participating in higher-level mathematics and seeks to determine if such reasons differ across gender, school type, or prior attainment levels. The findings suggest that the points system used by Ireland's Central Applications Office for entry to post-secondary education (CAO, n.d.), in particular the provision of Bonus Points for higher-level mathematics in Ireland, is the main driving factor behind students' participation in higher-level mathematics, with parents also being influential in decision-making. Significant differences in the reasons offered by males and females were found, while prior attainment seemed to have the biggest influence on students' reasoning regardless of gender.
[ PDF full text for this article ]

Authors: Dr Niamh O'Meara corresponding author) is a lecturer in mathematics education in the University of Limerick and deputy director of EPISTEM, 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 is a Lecturer in Mathematics at Mary Immaculate College (Thurles). 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@mic.ul.ie

Please cite as: O'Meara, N., Prendergast, M. & Treacy, P. (2023). Mathematics in Ireland's upper secondary schools: Why do students choose higher-level maths? Issues in Educational Research, 33(1), 227-246. http://www.iier.org.au/iier33/omeara.pdf

[ PDF full text for this article ] [ Contents Vol 33 ] [ IIER Home ]
Published under a Creative Commons licence: Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-ND 4.0)
This URL: http://www.iier.org.au/iier33/omeara-abs.html
Created 23 March 2023. Last correction: 23 March 2023. Website: Roger Atkinson [rjatkinson@bigpond.com]