VCAA’s Mathematical Reasoning

OK, Dear Readers, turn off the footy and/or the cricket. You have work to do.

We have written before of VCAA‘s manipulative “review” of Victoria’s senior mathematics curriculum, complete with scale-thumbing, push-polling and hidden, hand-picked “experts”. Now, according to their latest Bulletin,

[t]he VCAA will undertake a second phase of Stage 1 consultation …

Good. With any luck, the VCAA will subsequently get stuck on the nth phase of Stage 1, and Victoria can be spared their Potemkin Mathematics for another decade or so.

Still, it is strange. The VCAA has indicated nothing of substance about the results of the first phase of consultation. Why not? And, what is the supposed purpose of this second phase? What is the true purpose? According to the VCAA, one of two reasons for Phase Two is

to further investigate [t]he role of aspects of mathematical reasoning and working mathematically in each of the types of mathematics studies.

(The second reason concerns “Foundation Mathematics” which, try as we might, we just cannot pretend any interest.)

As part of this new consultation, VCAA has posted a new paper, and set up a new questionnaire (and PDF here), until 16 September.

And now, Dear Readers, your work begins:

  • Please fill in the questionnaire.
  • Please (attempt to) read VCAA’s new paper and, if you can make any sense of it whatsoever, please comment to this effect below.

We suspect, however, that this is all a game, disguising the true purpose of Phase Two. It’d be easier to be sure if the VCAA had reported anything of substance about the results of Phase One, but we can still hazard a pretty good guess. As one of our colleagues conjectured,

“There was probably sufficient lack of support [in Phase One] for some radical departure from the norm, and so they will take longer to figure out how to make that happen.”

That is, although the VCAA’s nonsense received significant pushback, the VCAA haven’t remotely given up on it and are simply trying to wait out and wear down the opposition. And, since the VCAA controls the money and the process and the “experts” and the “key stakeholders” and the reporting and everything else except public sentiment, they will probably win.

But they should be made to earn it.

5 Replies to “VCAA’s Mathematical Reasoning”

  1. For me the key part of the ‘new paper’ is the last mealy-mouthed paragraph of page 1:

    Analysis of consultation responses showed support for further development of aspects of mathematical reasoning and processes for working mathematically as discussed in some detail in the background papers and outlined in the questionnaire for the first phase of Stage 1 consultation. In this second phase of consultation, the VCAA is seeking your feedback and comment on how the various aspects of mathematical reasoning and working mathematically should be represented, and with what focus or emphasis, in the different types of VCE Mathematics study, and by what means in relation to areas of study and content, outcomes and key knowledge and key skills, and assessment tasks.

    In other words, apparently *some* ‘support’ was shown for *some* aspects of the model VCAA desperately want to roll out – the true purpose of phase 2 will be to spin how and when VCAA will make this happen. And of course it will be based on further *support*.

    I have experience with VCAA’s feedback process – feedback that is not favourable to VCAA’s agenda gets ‘lost’ (like my feedback on the 2016 Methods Exam 2 Q3 part (h): The pdf that wasn’t).

    They’re not fooling anybody, but they don’t care. VCAA will continue to piss on everyone’s legs and say that it’s raining. That copy of ” Idiot’s Guide To How Dictators Run ‘Democratic Elections’ ” is very well-worn. If only the IB was not so expensive ….

    1. Yep, there’s simply no way of telling how people responded in phase 1. More importantly, there’s no way of telling how mathematicians – you know, those guys who kinda know how maths fits together – responded.

      1. It doesn’t matter how mathematicians responded because their feedback is surely ‘lost’ by now. Any critical feedback by anyone is ‘lost’ by now, or at the very least, marginalised in some mealy-mouthed way. The review being run by the Ministry Of Truth *ahem* I mean VCAA is nothing more than an exercise in Newspeak.

        Re: Foundation Maths.
        SRK, I completely agree with Marty that your second paragraph is key.
        And Marty, I completely agree with your comment that “… such maths pretty much always seems to be insanely tedious and to focus upon “skills” that no one ever uses in real life.” How many consecutive years must things like ‘Measurement’, ‘Descriptive Statistics’ ‘Linear Graphs’ etc. get taught? (They could do worse than base a course around books like How to Lie With Statistics by Darrell Huff, The Undercover Economist by Harford, Weapons of Math Destruction by O’Neil etc.)

        Off-topic. Re: Further Maths. Whatever it *was* meant to be, it sure as hell ain’t anymore. It’s just a subject that many schools and students use to game the system: schools to manipulate their ‘Scores above 40’ percentage, and lazy but smart students (particularly Yr 11 students in certain schools) to get a 40 (and in the process completely marginalise the students for whom the subject was originally intended).

  2. I’ll have to think about the “working mathematically” aspects a bit more, but I’m in favour of having a Unit 3 & 4 sequence for Foundation Maths. There are a decent number of VCE students who would benefit from further development of some general, practical mathematical skills (ie. arithmetic, measuremet, basic data literacy), and for whom Further Mathematics is not appropriate (due to the presence of things like matrices, linear programming, etc.) My understanding is that Further Mathematics is not, and never was, intended to be a “life skills” mathematics course, but rather to provide the sorts of mathematical content / skills useful in a range of occupations or further study (which isn’t mathematically intensive). Foundation Mathematics would fill that gap.

    Of course, in the background here are issues concerning why students aren’t getting these skills in their P-10 education, but given that some of them aren’t, and would like to have those skills upon completion of Year 12, I would be in favour of a Unit 3 & 4 Foundation Maths subject.

    1. Thanks, SRK. I try to stay out of any discussion of Further/Foundation, but your second paragraph seems key. A good fraction of Further (and presumably all of Foundation) is a repeat of 7-10. Whatever the reason and the supposed justification, that is pretty weird. As for “life skills”, such maths pretty much always seems to be insanely tedious and to focus upon “skills” that no one ever uses in real life.

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