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Early maths experiences key to future participation

Poor experiences in junior secondary maths classes are resulting in too few students taking up higher mathematics in later years, according to a new report released today by the Minister for Education.

The Maths? Why Not? report was prepared by the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers and the University of New England with funding of $57 400 from the Australian Government.

The report highlights key factors that deter students from studying higher level maths in senior secondary years including students’ experience of junior secondary maths, perceptions of their own maths ability, and a poor understanding of career options in the field.

Another key factor is the large number of secondary teachers who are teaching maths even though this is outside their training and expertise.

More than one-quarter of our junior secondary maths teachers have not even completed one year of university study in maths, making it difficult to engage students in a potentially demanding subject.

To ensure Australia’s productivity and competitiveness in the global knowledge economy, this trend must be reversed. We must ensure that an interest in maths is inspired in our youth who will provide the skills vital for our nation’s future wellbeing.

To encourage more people to study maths at university, from 2009 the Rudd Government will halve the HECS fees for new maths students while they are studying and then halve the HECS repayments of maths graduates if they take up work in a relevant maths occupation, particularly teaching.

The Rudd Government’s new National Curriculum Board will also play a key role in responding to the report’s finding that overcrowded maths curricula hinder school students’ learning of maths.

The Board will oversee the development of a world-class curriculum for all Australian students from kindergarten to Year 12, starting with the key learning areas of English, mathematics, the sciences and history.

A copy of the report is available at: http://www.aamt.edu.au/AAMT-in-action/Projects/Maths-Why-Not/Maths-Why-not-Final-Report