From Dr Mary Coupland, President, Mathematical Association of New South Wales.

May 14, 2010.


The Mathematical Association of New South Wales (MANSW) is a professional association of mathematics educators that is dedicated to improving the quality of mathematics education and learning throughout New South Wales. The association has a proud history spanning one hundred years of supporting quality mathematics education and the development of first class syllabuses for NSW students. The association is affiliated with the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers and the Professional Teachers’ Council NSW. MANSW membership covers mathematics educators from Kindergarten through to tertiary level. The association provides support for teachers of mathematics from Kindergarten to Year 12 in both government and non-government schools. MANSW encourages participation from tertiary educators in mathematics and mathematics education to share their skills and expertise.

MANSW is preparing a response to the Australian Curriculum, based upon discussions at meetings of the executive committees of MANSW and our Primary Association of Mathematics (PAM), written and verbal feedback from our members, and a forum on the draft national curriculum K-10 conducted by MANSW on Saturday 1 May 2010.

MANSW strongly supports the introduction of a national mathematics curriculum in Australia and sincerely hopes that this attempt by the national and state governments is successful. The association, however, is disappointed that the draft Australian Curriculum Mathematics K – 10 does not live up to many of the key expectations raised in the writing brief The Shape of the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics

Members of MANSW have expressed concerns that

The draft document (K-10) does not give sufficient support and guidance to teachers as to exactly what is to be taught and what all students are expected to learn.

The bulk of the draft document (K-10) addresses the mathematics that students are to learn but insufficient detail is provided on problem solving and on the applications of mathematics in study, work, and every day living. There is very little point in knowing mathematics if you do not have the confidence and competence to use it outside of the mathematics classroom.

For more able students, the lack of advanced material until year 10 delays their opportunity to engage with more abstract ideas that would prepare them for senior studies.

Senior Years

The draft National Curriculum (Mathematics) for Senior years was released publicly this morning. MANSW needs time to canvass the opinion of its members regarding these four new courses and will be preparing a comprehensive response. Initial observations include:

The inclusion of Essential Mathematics (Course A) will be welcomed by those NSW teachers who found that the NSW subject General Mathematics was not suitable for many students. Students are to complete three investigations in the new course and this will allow teachers to choose activities that are of interest to their own students. Assessment of independent investigations may be problematic however.

General Mathematics (Course B) has some material in common with the current NSW General Mathematics subject, but also has new material from discrete mathematics (networks, matrices, recurrence relations) that we have not seen in NSW subjects recently. The Data Analysis and Financial Mathematics sections are also more extensive than we are used to teaching in NSW.

Mathematics Methods (Course C) at first glance looks like the NSW Mathematics (2 Unit) subject without the plane geometry, however it contains large quantities of work on statistics: Discrete and Continuous Random Variables and also Statistical Inference. There is a unit on solving systems of linear equations by row reduction (Gaussian elimination). At first glance this could be a very dry subject unless it is taught with technology to do the tedious calculations and graphing. Teachers will need to include applications to real world problem solving to make this subject relevant and interesting.

Specialist Mathematics (Course D) is quite different from our current NSW Extension Mathematics subjects. Familiar topics include complex numbers, trigonometry, mathematical induction, and more advanced calculus topics. Material new to NSW teachers includes a more comprehensive treatment of mathematical proof, recurrence relations, matrices, vectors, and some of the kinematics. Statistical Inference is one of three options in Unit 4 Topic 2. There seems to be a numbering problem in the document as Unit 4 Topic 3 is missing and it is not clear where Unit 4 Topic 4 appears other than in the Contents Table.

Students take either a single or a double maths course. Single courses could be A or B or C (with some flexibility to change at the end of year 11). Double courses could be B and C or C and D. (Course C must be taken if you take Course D). There is no equivalent of our Extension 1 (3 Unit) course, which has provided flexibility for able students of mathematics in NSW for many years, allowing them to do something like Course C and half of Course D.

Overall comments:

NSW teachers will need considerable time to get up to speed in the new material in these courses. In particular we will all have to learn more about statistics and how to teach statistical topics. It may be that with time to consider how to program these courses it will be clear that there is simply too much material to be covered in each course.

MANSW looks forward to working with both State and Federal Government agencies in the development of support for teachers. Of some concern is that teachers close to retirement may opt to leave the system rather than adapting to the changes, and this will exacerbate the existing chronic shortage of trained mathematics teachers in our state.


Dr Mary Coupland

Dept of Mathematical Sciences

University of Technology, Sydney