The VCAA Draft and its Third Rail

We’ve looked a little more closely at VCAA’s Draft for the new mathematics VCE subjects. Yes, the time for feedback has ended, unless it hasn’t: the MAV are offering a Zoom session TODAY (Thursday 25/3) for members. God knows how or why. But in any case, it’ll be a while before VCAA cements the thing in place: plenty of time to ignore everyone’s suggestions.

The following are our thoughts on the Draft and Overview. It will be brief and disorganised, since there is no point in doing more; as we wrote, the content doesn’t matter as much as the fact that, whatever content, VCAA will undoubtedly screw it up. Still, there are some clear and depressing points to be made. We haven’t paid much specific attention to what is new nonsense, and what is the same old nonsense; nonsense is nonsense.

GENERAL POINTS ON THE DRAFT

  • The draft looks like a primary school book report. Someone at VCAA really should learn \LaTeX.
  • “Computational Thinking” is meaningless buzzery, and will be endemic, insidious and idiotic. It will poison everything. Every step of Methods and Specialist is subject to the scrutiny of Outcome 3:

“On completion of this unit the student should be able to apply computational thinking and use numerical, graphical, symbolic and statistical functionalities of technology to develop mathematical ideas, produce results and carry out analysis in practical situations requiring problem-solving, modelling or investigative techniques or approaches.”

“Statistical functionalities of technology”. And, there’s way more:

“key elements of algorithm design: sequencing, decision-making, repetition, and representation including the use of pseudocode.”

“use computational thinking, algorithms, models and simulations to solve problems related to a given context”

“the role of developing algorithms and expressing these through pseudocode to help determine and understand mathematical ideas and results”

“the purpose and effect of sequencing, decision-making and repetition statements on relevant functionalities of technology, and their role in the design of algorithms and simulations”

“design and implement simulations and algorithms using appropriate functionalities of technology”

This will all be the same aimless, pseudo-exploratory, CAS-drenched garbage that currently screws VCE, but much, much worse. Anybody who signs off on this idiocy should hang their head in shame.

  • CAS shit will now be worse than ever.
  • There should be no CAS exam, at all.
  • There should be no bound notes permitted in any exam.
  • Don’t write “technology”. It is pompous and meaningless. If you mean “CAS” then write “CAS”.
  • SACs have always been shit and will always be shit. The increased weight on them is insane.
  • The statistics is the same pointless bullshit it always was.
  • The presence of “proof” as a topic in Specialist highlights the anti-mathematical insanity of VCAA and ACARA curricula: proof has zero existence elsewhere. Much of what appears in the proof topic could naturally and engagingly and productively be taught at much lower levels. But of course, that would get in the way of VCAA’s constructivist fantasy, now with New and Improved Computational Thinking.

 

MATHEMATICAL METHODS

  • Not including integration by substitution is still and will always be the most stupid aspect of Methods.
  • Dilations must be understood expressed as both “parallel to an axis” and “from an axis”? But not in terms of the direction the damn points are moving? Cute.
  • The definition of independent events is wrong.
  • The demand that, for the composition \boldsymbol{f\circ g}, the range of \boldsymbol{g} must be a subset of the domain of \boldsymbol{f} is as pedantic and as pointless as ever.
  • “literal equations” is the kind of blather that only a maths ed clown could think has value.
  • The derivative of the inverse is still not in the syllabus, and everyone will still cheat and use it anyway.
  • “trapezium rule” is gauche but, more importantly, what is the purpose of teaching such integral approximation here? Yes, one can imagine a reasonable purpose, but we’ll lay odds there is no such purpose here.

 

SPECIALIST MATHEMATICS

  • The killing of mechanics is a crime.
  • The inclusion of logic and proof and the discrete topics could be good. But it won’t be. It will be shallow and formulaic and algorithmised, and graded in a painfully pedantic manner. Just imagine, for example, how mathematical induction will be assessed on exams: “Students often wrote \boldsymbol{n} instead of \boldsymbol{k}. Students should be aware of the proper use of these variables.”
  • There is no value here in “proof by contrapositive”, and it is confusing. Proof by contradiction suffices.
  • They’re really including integration by parts? Incredible.
  • The inclusion of cross products and plane equations makes some sense.

13 Replies to “The VCAA Draft and its Third Rail”

  1. Anyone, please tell me I’m wrong (for my own sanity!) but, the way VCAA has framed “computational thinking” seems to me a lot less algorithms (we can’t interfere with the VCE Algorithmics course, now can we…) and a lot more: here’s a problem – go straight to your “technology” to try to find an answer that works.

    Taken at its most extreme, this is trial-and-error with a black (or blue if you have the new model) box to do the last remaining scraps of mathematics.

    As for “proof” – I would speculate that at some point, SACs in Specialist need this to pass audit, but I cannot really see it being examined in any meaningful way (and that goes for SACs as well)

    1. RF, it is impossible to be sure, but I read the Draft that way. It seems to me that the most loathsome and idiotic, intrepid little explorer aspects of VCE will be much worse. And I think a lot of the ostensibly pure content in Specialist will be pseudo-programming. Fundamentally, it seems that these people hate mathematics.

      1. You really do wonder just how much the calculator companies are “donating” to the cause…

        I do notice they sponsor a lot of the various conferences, not just here but around the world.

        Which they might be doing because they feel like being good global citizens…

        …but somehow I suspect their influence on education “research” is beyond debate.

          1. Open question: do you need to know what Mathematics is in order to hate it?

            I suspect your answer will be “no”.

    2. I would expect to see it examined mainly (if not exclusively) in the context of proof by induction. I have previously posted an example of the sort of question I’d expect to see (https://mathematicalcrap.com/2020/05/28/inducting-mathematics-into-vce/). And I would expect to see it mainly in Exam1.

      The NSW and SA exams have good questions that I expect to see plagiarised.

      And I agree that the Sacs of Shit will be further micro-managed so that these flavours of the month are included.

      1. Yes, it’s a Battle of the Fuckwits … As far as I can see, in practice there is no Australian Curriculum. Just curriculum fiefdoms in each state.

        1. Like it or not, we have an Australian Curriculum (AC). Many textbooks claim that they follow AC.

          State governments have their own curricula. In Victoria, government schools and Catholic schools are obliged to follow the Victorian curriculum; other schools are not. Different states set different Year 12 examinations based on the curriculum of the state. Rules concerning calculators in mathematics examinations vary with the state.

          Yet students, across the nation, come out with a national ATAR ranking.

          1. Terry, why do you think any of this matters nearly as much as the fact that both the ACARA curriculum and the VCAA curriculum suck balls?

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