University of Limerick
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An investigation into the teaching and learning of probability at senior cycle

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posted on 2022-08-17, 11:17 authored by Conor Murphy
In Ireland at present, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment is comprehensively overhauling the Second Level Mathematics curriculum. This reformed curriculum is known as Project Maths and is a response to concerns about how Irish students are taught and learn mathematics. These concerns are based around the achievement of Irish student’s in international studies (Close and Oldham 2005; Cosgrove, Shiel, Sofroniou, Zastrutzki and Shortt 2005; Perkins, Moran, Cosgrove and Shiel 2010; Oldham 2002, 2006) as well as domestic and international literature which, highlights the problems associated with the behaviourist methodology favoured by Irish teachers (Conway and Sloane 2006; English, O’Donoghue and Bajpai 1992; Lyons, Lynch, Close, Sheerin and Boland 2003; NCCA 2005). The aim of the study was to improve the teaching and learning of Probability through the development of a resource pack. probability was chosen as the focus of the intervention due to the author’s experiences in the classroom, international literature highlighting its pedagogical difficulties (Shaughnessy 1992; Fischbein, Nello and Marino 1991; Ahlgren and Garfield 1988; Hawkins and Kapadia 1984) and its lack of popularity among Irish Leaving Certificate students (Chief Examiner 2000, 2005). The study was designed to examine the benefits of the active learning methodologies and contextualised questions promoted by the Project Maths curriculum, specifically with regards to students’ attitudes and understanding through the implementation and evaluation of a resource pack designed by the author. The evaluation process produced data, which was inconclusive in establishing a link between the promoted methodologies and students’ attitudes and understanding. The only significant shift in students’ attitude was a negative one in response to the statement “I know I can do well in Maths”. A dip in students’ confidence however is not unusual in studies involving changes in pedagogical style (Carpenter, Franke, Jacobs, Fennema and Epsom 1998; Cobb, Wood, Yackel, Nicholls, Wheatley, Trigatti and Perlwitz, 1991; Vershaffel and De Corte 1997; Fauzan et al. 2002; Van Reeuwijk 1992) and though not significant, student scores did improve in the three sub-categories of ‘Perception of Usefulness’, ‘Anxiety’ and ‘Effective Motivation’. There were also indications that these methodologies had a positive effect on understanding. The data also suggested that the resource pack, designed and developed by the author to support the teaching and learning of probability, will be of use to teachers who embrace Project Maths and what it is trying to achieve in Irish classrooms.



  • Master (Research)

First supervisor

O'Donoghue, John

Second supervisor

Ní Ríordáin, Máire





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