Tuesday, 16 April 2024

    Australia’s maths suffers

    After 25 years as a successful mathematics teacher, I have packed away my books and will not be returning to the classroom. I no longer wish to teach in Australia, writes Robin Nagy.

    This decision stems from a combination of factors, including a lack of systemic respect for teachers, over-compliance, superficial regulation and the erosion of teacher autonomy.

    The worse Australian mathematics is perceived to be, the more layers of restriction and overbearing compliance and regulation are added, and the more impossible it becomes to teach.

    First let me start by saying that the last 25 years have been amazing. At its best, teaching is the most fulfilling job in the world.

    But teaching is all about nurturing and relationships. Most students will only enjoy a subject if they believe that their teacher is interested in them personally.

    It is a performing art, not a science, requiring a multiplicity of dispositional skills, including communication, empathy, emotional intelligence and listening ability.

    And mathematics teaching requires an additional skill set, akin to that of a logician or scientist.

    The dearth of qualified mathematics teachers has resulted in “out-of-field” teachers taking many mathematics classes, and in the tightening up of regulation and compliance for all mathematics teachers to try to ensure consistency of delivery and student achievement.

    This has been an epic failure.

    The root of the problem does not just lie in a lack of qualified mathematics teachers, however.

    Extension mathematics is considered the domain of prodigies.

    These courses are vital for our future engineers, scientists and mathematicians, but participation in these courses is pitifully low and has been decreasing for years.


    The epic failure at the root of Australia’s maths problem (ABC News)


    The worse Australian mathematics is perceived to be, the more impossible it becomes to teach. (ABC News: Ian Cutmore)