Numbers game: The challenge of maths in our schools

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A survey of NSW teachers found they believe many capable high school students are opting out of high-level maths subjects in their HSC in order to maximise their ATAR.

Dr Catherine Attard, Senior Lecturer from the UWS School of Education and President of the Mathematical Association of NSW (MANSW) says the online survey conducted by MANSW received over 1000 responses from secondary teachers of mathematics in both metropolitan and regional NSW.

The survey sought teachers’ perceptions in regards to student participation in higher levels of mathematics, equitable access to qualified teachers of mathematics, and the current NSW Mathematics courses.

Although the number of students completing Extension 1 and 2 has changed little, the MANSW survey results indicate that teachers are concerned that the number of students completing Mathematics (2 Unit) without Extension has fallen by 18% since 2001.

The teachers surveyed believe that many capable students are choosing to undertake the General Mathematics course rather than Mathematics (2 Unit) to maximise their ATAR contribution.

“Some teachers in the survey perceived excessively difficult 2 Unit HSC examinations and the demanding study workload has a negative impact on student performance in other subjects,” says Dr Attard.

The survey results also indicate that thousands of NSW students are learning mathematics from teachers who do not hold formal teaching qualifications in mathematics.

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The shortage of qualified mathematics teachers is particularly alarming in regional areas says Dr Attard.

“While ‘out-of-field’ teachers are doing an outstanding job filling the gap in the supply of qualified maths teachers, the survey results suggest there is a need to develop a specialised Year 7-10 mathematics qualification specifically designed for ‘out-of-field’ teachers,” says Dr Attard.

(Source: University of Western Sydney)

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Date Created: February 15, 2014 Date Modified: February 26, 2014