IT seems bonus points really do add up. There has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of Leaving Certificate students taking higher-level maths in the past two years.
A decision to give extra CAO points for pupils who aim high has paid off, with a record-breaking 15,000 candidates intent on sitting the honours paper in June.
This represents a massive 50pc rise on two years ago – before the introduction of 25 CAO bonus points for students who pass the exam.
However the downside of the increase is that it is likely to cause a spike in the points race for some third-level courses, particularly science, computing and engineering.
CAO cut-off points are determined by the number of places available and the level of demand from students for each of those places.
Maths skills are essential for "smart economy" jobs so the continuing rise in uptake at honours level will boost the potential pool of students for engineering, technology and maths-based subjects at third level.
While higher-level maths is only actually required for some CAO courses, mainly engineering, even studying at that level raises standards generally.
An increase in honours maths candidates for a second year running will be enthusiastically received by government and employers, who share concern about a shortage of skilled workers in growth areas, such as technology.
Around the world, there is evidence that the most innovative societies are those where students perform well in maths.
There is also a strong link between prior academic achievement in maths and successful progression to the second year of a college course.
It was the poor uptake in higher level maths that triggered the move to introduce bonus points for all grades from D3 to A1 from 2012.
The initiative has achieved its aim of encouraging good ordinary level candidates to raise their sights, with a promise of compensation for the extra study workload.
In last year's Leaving Cert, student effort was rewarded when 98pc of higher-level candidates achieved the necessary minimum grade D.
According to the SEC figures, 15,146 students are currently planning to take the higher-level paper, up 25pc on this time last year, and up 50pc on typical March figures before bonus points were introduced.