New Research Report: Making the Transition: Students’ Mathematical Journey from Primary to Post-Primary School in Ireland

This research report, ‘Making the Transition: Students’ Mathematical Journey from Primary to Post-Primary School in Ireland’ comprises three journal publications. We investigate student performance in mathematics during the transition from primary to post-primary school. Throughout her career the author (VR) observed, just as national research has shown that students repeatedly demonstrate difficulty in mathematical topics that overlap sixth class and first year, and many students fail to make sufficient academic progress during this transition period.
Academic achievement in mathematics was measured using a standardised test at the end of sixth class of primary school and the end of first year of post-primary school. This data was analysed for all students and also for students grouped by gender, prior achievement, strand areas (Number, Measure, Shape and Space, Data and Algebra) and process skills (Concepts and Facts, Computation and Word problems). Furthermore, we examined students’ interest in mathematics and their willingness to engage in it including attitudes, emotions and self-related beliefs.
This research established a statistically significant dip, more pronounced than any international study of the transition in mathematics, in student performance across the transition. On average, students’ raw scores decrease by 7% from sixth class to first year despite an additional year of instruction. The results show statistically significant losses in each strand area and in each process skill, and statistically significant female underperformance in each strand area and each process skill.
This study also highlights a gender disparity in mathematics self-beliefs, particularly in relation to self-efficacy, self-concept and anxiety. However, the results of this study show high levels of student engagement, motivation and positive self-belief in mathematics.

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