Career Mathways is a novel and exciting, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funded project designed for Transition Year students. The project was designed by a team of mathematics education researchers based in EPISTEM, the national centre for STEM education based in the University of Limerick. The project received funding under the SFI Discover scheme, SFI’s Education and Public Engagement programme which seeks to promote the awareness and engagement of the Irish public with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). According to SFI “...the mission of this programme is to catalyse, inspire and guide the best in STEM education and public engagement. This is done by supporting and developing the education and outreach STEM sector in Ireland by investing in developing and extending capacity in this area and also exploring and encouraging novel means of public engagement and communications.”
Career Mathways aligns with the goals of the Discover Programme as it seeks to promote STEM, and in particular mathematics, among Transition Year students; their parents; their mathematics teachers as well as career guidance teachers. The initiative aims to highlight the mathematics underpinning a variety of careers, as a way of enhancing student engagement across all STEM subjects. The project engages with several well-known, high profile personalities (e.g. Jacqui Hurley [RTÉ Sports Correspondent]; Lizzie Lyons [TV3 Chef & Entrepreneur]; Dean Strang [‘Making a Murderer’ Lawyer]; Joanna Donnelly [Meteorologist, Met Eireann]) and other professionals, who all kindly volunteered their own time to act as STEM Ambassadors. In their role as STEM Ambassadors these professionals recorded an interview with the Career Mathways research team in which they explored the different types of mathematics they use in their careers and highlighted how important is it to have a good understanding of mathematics and be proficient in the subject. These videos serve to make mathematics more visible and fascinating to students and it is hoped that it will help teachers when faced with the common question “Where will I use this again?” The videos were then used by the team of researchers to develop a suite of resources including detailed and innovative teaching and learning plans; student workbooks featuring authentic, real-world problems as well as a poster series, kindly sponsored by the Irish Independent, to highlight to the entire school how valuable mathematics is in a variety of different professions.
In the 2018/19 school year, Career Mathways will be rolled out in six pilot schools: Crescent College Comprehensive (Limerick); Ardscoil Rís (Limerick); Castletroy College (Limerick); St Leo’s College (Carlow); St Brendan’s Community School (Offaly) and Colaiste Phádraig (Dublin). Over an eight-week period Transition Year students in these schools will engage in a series of lessons that will look in detail at the mathematics in a selection of thirteen different professions. Transition Year teachers from each of these schools attended a training event in September and the initiative was officially launched in two schools (St Leo’s College & St Brendan’s Community School) at the end of September. These launch events gave participating students and the wider school community the opportunity to gain a deeper insight into the initiative that their school will be a part of. At one of the launch events a STEM Ambassador, Detective Sergeant Frank Lavin, spoke in detail about how he uses mathematics in his role as a member of An Garda Siochána, and more specifically in his role as a Forensic Collision Investigator. If the project proves successful then the next phase will see the recruitment of more STEM Ambassadors, a larger emphasis placed on the other STEM disciplines and the development of an online platform to make the developed materials available to all interested schools.