All Honours

I’ve spent more than enough time telling everyone that I don’t care to overshare online but the Irish Department of Education’s stance on maths has, once again, managed to grind my gears.

If you ask anyone I went to school with (national/primary school included) they’ll tell you I was a high achiever. Rarely if I ever did I get anything below 90 per cent on a times tables test, speed test, or maths test during my first eight years in the education system.

I was one of THOSE kids who ranked in that top percentile on standardised tests and, surprisingly enough, that didn’t change when I crossed the divide into secondary school. At least not initially.


This isn’t a case of blowing my own trumpet by the by, I’m setting myself up for a fall here.

When I was in second year of secondary school I became very ill: A simple  dose of sinusitis – not unlike the one that has me housebound this week – spiralled into a ridiclous infection that lasted weeks. Combine illness with an earth-shattering saga that I’ve explained in detail here, and you’re looking at a whole lot of missed maths classes.

As a result of my declining physical and mental health, I completely lost confidence in my own ability and maths quickly became the bane of my life. Luckily (put that one in inverted commas) for me, I ended up never sitting the Junior Certificate, so by the time I had to face maths again I was in Transition Year.

By then, it was definitely a case of too little too late. I got my first ever bad grade and completely gave up on the subject: The teacher in question really didn’t have much time for anyone who wasn’t top notch, and had no trouble telling me “well, you’ll probably manage a B if you do Ordinary Level”.


So, that’s what I did. I didn’t even bother giving honours a go because, to be honest, I just wasn’t interested. I much preferred English, Irish, History and Geography, all of which I did rather well in. It seems that, for the Department of Eduction at least, that’s quite simply not good enough.

Let’s get one thing straight before I continue: I have absolutely no problem with maths, people who love maths, people who do well at maths, or maths teachers. What I do have a problem with is the Department’s continuous (albeit unintentional) need to make anyone who didn’t take Honours Maths feel below average.

They’d almost make you feel ashamed that despite the 520 points, First Class Honours BA and First Class Honours Masters, you still couldn’t cope with that one class.

Maybe I’m just too sensitive, but today’s suggestion that all primary school teachers should have to take Honours Maths seems to be yet another mildly insulting blow for those of us who just couldn’t get our heads around the subject. As if the existing requirement to get a high enough grade in Honours Irish wasn’t enough of a challenge.

There are thousands of incredible primary school teachers out there who didn’t take Honours Maths, and probably just as many waiting in the wings. They shouldn’t be denied their chance simply because the Department wants to make more people take certain subjects.


Oh, and as for Mr Quinn’s comments about feminine domination of the profession? Well, they speak for themselves. Hate to break it to you Ruairi, but there are more than enough Irish women who’d easily school the boys.

P.S Excuse the incoherent ranting. I blame the cough and cold.

Featured Image via Flickr Creative Commons


3 responses to “All Honours

  1. My husband is a maths snob. As you may have gathered I most certainly am not (pass maths and proud).
    As you have proved you have tenacity and intelligence and a whole lot more. It’s one subject which to be honest has absolutely no bearing on my life, and I do not get the big deal about it.
    Interestingly my eldest son has severe dyslexia and dyscalcula ( maths dyslexia) and failed all those standardised tests, but met an amazing maths teacher in fifth year and decided he could do honours ( i disagreed) and he got a C1 ( I was wrong)

    • Fair play to him – that’s brilliant! My other half loved maths, did honours and passed. I was happier with my honours Irish. Different strokes for different folks.

  2. I love maths, in fact it’s what I study in college but I think this need to make honours maths a requirement for primary teaching is ridiculous!
    What difference will a knowledge of matrices, complex numbers and vectors will aid in teaching young children. Yes i think honours should be mandatory for engineering and mathematics related college courses but the government needs to leave other courses alone and stop forcing honours maths down everyone’s throats. Leave it for those who actually want to do it and enjoy doing it.
    Sorry about the rant, it just irks me when i see the government deciding to put such massive emphasis on maths like that, making it very unfair to those who have strengths in other areas.

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