De Carvalho, AMSI and that Other Singapore

Sigh. So much crap …


This one is even more brazen than Chico. It’s more like

Who are you gonna believe, me, or your own eyes and me from two minutes ago?

Rebecca Urban, The Australian‘s education reporter, is notable for her poor stenography skills. Urban has this peculiar habit of not simply buying and then repeating unchallenged a formal authority’s propaganda. Urban’s strange style was on display yesterday, with a report on the Daft Australian Curriculum: Curriculum changes to maths and science are not adding up to success (Murdoch, paywalled).

Urban reports and pushes back hard on ACARA’s problem-solving crusade, this crusade of course in no conceivable manner contradicting David de Carvalho‘s statement that “ACARA is not making any recommendations about pedagogical approaches“. Urban quotes a number of people to query De Carvalho’s nonsense, including Greg Ashman, who is always worth reading and is always too polite. Ashman has a very good and, for him, very snarky post on the Daft Curriculum, and there is probably more to come.

Pretty much everything De Carvalho is quoted as saying in Urban’s report is nonsense, But there is one particular line that rises above and beyond the Chico level of gaslighting:

However, Mr de Carvalho said problem solving was at the core of the curriculum in Singapore, whose students consistently topped the global education rankings, …

Singapore, huh? Well, David, we’ve looked at Singapore, and we’ve also looked at your looking at Singapore. So, we’re sorry, but we’ll choose to believe our own eyes, and that other you from two minutes ago.

Here is what you, ACARA, wrote about Year 6 mathematics in your Australia-Singapore comparative study (p 77):

The [Singapore syllabus] builds on the depth and fluency of Mathematics established in previous years. For example, operations with decimals are considered complete and time is given to completing mastery of the four operations with fractions without the use of calculators. … The comprehensiveness of the problem sets offers Primary 6 students a sense of mastery and confidence in applying Mathematics in useful ways. [emphasis added]

There is plenty more: the comparison of the earlier years is hilarious, as long as you appreciate black humour. Does Singapore do problem-solving? Sure, lots, at least of certain, specific types. But it is absolutely clear to anyone with eyes — or anyone who reads ACARA’s literature with sufficient thoroughness and thought — that Singapore’s problem-solving is built upon a really solid grounding in arithmetic and algebraic facts and skills, a grounding that Australia simply does not offer and is looking now to undermine further.

Urban quotes Fiona Mueller, former Director of Curriculum at ACARA, to counter De Carvalho’s Singapore nonsense. There is also, however, one person Urban quotes supporting ACARA’s Daft Curriculum, and this is well worth noting:

Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute director Tim Marchant backed the changes.

“Adjusting the curriculum to focus on problem-solving is crucial to improve their skill sets and deliver students that are able to take knowledge and apply it to solve challenges,” Professor Marchant said.

That is Professor Tim Marchant, Director of the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute there, claiming problem-solving is the “the way to improve [students’] skill sets”.

What can one say in the face of such ignorance? Just, as usual, the Evil Mathologre is correct.



11 Replies to “De Carvalho, AMSI and that Other Singapore”

  1. I think if we could honestly find out the inspiring thoughts behind all of these moves to inquiry based learning there would be a direct link to reading the papers of one Joanne Boaler.

    Since moving from the UK, she has been instrumental in changing the American curriculum. It was already in diabolical trouble before she got there, but now it’s in a death spiral. Many of her studies are the worst cases of charlatanism that can be found.

    She has many devotees here too

    1. That sounds right. The Australian education world is infested with Boalerites. The other, huge problem is that Australian mathematicians have either gone AWOL or, like Marchant, drunk the Kool Aid.

        1. Australian mathematicians have gone AWOL. I’m sorry for the collective guilt thing, but, as a class, fuck ‘em.

  2. The current review focussed on years F-10 and ignored Years 11 and 12. If problem solving is central to learning about mathematics, then, to be consistent, Year 12 examinations should reflect this.

    BTW, this may be of interest.

    Click to access 9758_y22_sy.pdf

  3. We are dealing here with the classic problem of experts in the field looking back on their childhood, recalling the attributes they believe made them experts. They remember the wonder and cool problems they were shown and solved (which is true), but have forgotten they also became experts because they had very strong innate and well developed number sense and number skills developed through directed practice.

    1. edward, are you accusing me et al, or the writers of the Daft Curriculum?

      We are all capable of taking a singular and distorted memory, and concocting a general and dubious truth, and we should all be ready to defend ourselves against accusations of doing this. I believe I am ready to do so.

      ACARA’s writers, however, do not even exist. They are Kafka no-names.

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