From the role of Boolean algebra in communication technologies to the Radon transform in medical imaging, Mathematics underpins scientific and technological progress. However the long-term and diffuse nature of its returns are linked to a reluctance to invest in mathematics, which can in time lead to an insidious deterioration of the quality of mathematical education in schools.
In Ireland, major reforms like Project Maths have aimed to increase the students’ ability to apply their mathematical knowledge to real-life situations. Currently, the international PISA mathematics test results place Ireland above the OECD average. However, Ireland continues to lag behind the OECD average in the percentage of students at the higher levels of PISA performance and markedly in problem solving. This points to the need for further progress in nurturing creativity along with mathematical proficiency. Indeed, the government’s first Action Plan, launched in March 2016, aims at increasing the proportion of students achieving PISA Mathematics level 5 or above from the current 11% to above the OECD average (currently 13%) by 2025. With only 7% of the total learning time in secondary schools dedicated to Mathematics, (the smallest percentage in Europe), this is a difficult task. Highly competent, highly motivated teachers are needed to achieve this goal.