AMSI Calls for a Halt of the Mathematics Curriculum Review

The Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute has finalised and released its submission for ACARA’s consultation on their draft mathematics curriculum. For eccentric reasons, we haven’t properly read AMSI’s submission. (Seriously.) We understand that it is a good and strong statement. The second and key paragraph is

In early April, AMSI, together with some of its key partners, released a joint statement on the proposed new curriculum “Why maths must change”. AMSI initially endorsed the revised draft curriculum in our joint statement. However, there is now an opportunity to comment on the draft curriculum, and we have revised our position, following extensive consultation with representatives of our member organisations. Many members expressed concern, and indeed alarm, at numerous proposed changes. AMSI and its members believe that the new curriculum should be delayed, and we ask ACARA to halt the current review process.

AMSI’s full submission is here, and an article by Rebecca Urban is here (paywalled, Murdoch).

AMSI and AMSI’s Director, Tim Marchant, should be applauded. We’ve been very hard on both, and we think the criticism was legitimate. But it is a very difficult thing for a big-name institution, and its Director, to come out strongly in this manner, particularly after having come out initially on the wrong foot. It is great that they did.


UPDATE (08/07/21)

Greg Ashman has a good, “What should happen now?” post on AMSI’s submission.


19 Replies to “AMSI Calls for a Halt of the Mathematics Curriculum Review”

  1. I’ve read it properly now, and although there are things there that I don’t agree with, it’s still a very positive thing in my opinion.

    1. AMSI’s submission calls for a “halt”, and I gather it calls for the halt for sufficiently clear and good reasons. For now, anything else is third order.

      1. Let me disclaimer this comment by saying that I agree, and it is a wonderful, excellent, amazing and unexpected step forward.

        But I want to explain myself anyway. Some of them (the reasons) are perfect, some are *shrug*, none are bad. But, I do find some parts of the AMSI submission disagreeable, and one potentially problematic (I have a similar issue with other submissions). The first is that it tends to be too even-handed overall, which is to be expected.

        For example, I don’t like it how AMSI say:

        “Some members welcomed the stronger emphasis on problem solving and inquiry, mathematical modelling and computational thinking (key consideration p13).”

        I have a number of issues with this, all of which I’m sure you can guess.

        The second issue I have with the AMSI submission is that they seem to hammer the “not enough training” point too hard and in a disagreeable way. It is mentioned multiple times, and often with the connotation that while a “mathematician” may be able to teach in a “draft math curriculum style”, but school teachers have no chance. I can see what point they *could* make in this direction, but I think they totally failed to make it.

        See, if we can agree that the curriculum needs to change, then presumably the new curriculum is *possibly* different enough that teachers will need re-training. So in a sense, this is an argument against significant curriculum change, which is not great: I *want* significant curriculum change.

        Not only this, it opens AMSI up to the following. It implies that there exists a “training” that teachers could undertake in this kind of mathematics teaching, and that this is somehow the main issue, or one of them, with the draft maths curriculum. The point that I would prefer to see hammered is that the draft curriculum is terrible, and training teachers in the delivery of a terrible curriculum would be a colossal waste of time. Not that it simply hasn’t been done yet.

        1. Glen, I pretty much agree with all of that, and definitely your second last sentence. Again, I don’t think it matters, but I agree that the inclusion of (what we regards as) distractions is frustrating.

          I think I have some sense of how this might have occurred, and I don’t think it’s entirely pointless. I’ll try to write a bit tomorrow.

        2. hi, Glen. Just a bit more of a reply.

          Of course, you are aware that the main difficulty for AMSI to come out with a clear and strong opinion is the large and wide views that would be expressed. For that reason, it is quite incredible that they came out with what they did.

          On the problem-solving/modelling, I agree entirely and, trust me, I’ve been hammering in the background at every opportunity. I think AMSI members generally realise that the draft is bloated with investigation, and that these investigations amount to imposing inquiry learning of the basics, but I don’t think they realise that pretty much *all* of the investigation is real-world crap. Plus, some mathematicians like real-world crap.

          On the teacher-training, I agree 95%, and I’ve been hammering this point for years. I think the reason that it is mostly there is because AMSI has a tradition of obsessing over teacher qualifications and training. I’m not arguing, just explaining. But I also wonder if there is some political angle to this, that the teacher training is done in the majority by the same maths ed nitwits who generally support the draft curriculum (and the current curriculum), and the crazy underlying ideas.

  2. Wow, just ‘wow’. I haven’t read it (I’ve also got other, more eccentric and eclectic things to do) but is this the seismic shift that we have hoped for (and which we need)? I’m (semi) lost for words (which rarely happens). “Many members expressed concern, and indeed alarm, at numerous proposed changes”. Excellent news.

    On related matters, and shamelessly striking while the iron’s hot, I once again offer my submission for “a signed copy of the number one best-selling** A Dingo Ate My Math Book” i.e.

    “The draft curriculum is so appallingly bad that it will hopefully unite many of this country’s leading mathematics teachers in active opposition to it and thus provide an opportunity for a well-led and expertly coordinated effort to prevent its obviously preordained implementation at the state level.”

    Has this now begun?

    1. Thanks, Sir H. Nope, as in my reply to your other comment, your good point is taken but it doesn’t qualify you for the competition.

  3. Anyone who cares about the future of mathematics education in Australia can only hope that the review does halt, that it’s back to the drawing board, and that ACARA is not allowed anywhere near the panel that writes the new (and hopefully infinitely better) draft. ACARA cannot be trusted to write a curriculum that teaches a dog how to piss on a tree.

    1. Thanks, John. ACARA certainly cannot be trusted, although it’s not all their fault. They really upon maths ed experts, who aren’t.

      As to what will happen now, no idea. ACARA is trying to tough it out. They might yet succeed.

  4. It will be interesting to see what happens if ACARA adopts the new draft (or a minor modification of same) and some states do not follow suit.

    1. It would appear so. There have been rumours to that effect for a while. That doesn’t mean it’ll hold, and it also doesn’t mean that ACARA will come to the realisation that ACARA fucked up.

  5. ACARA might decide against introducing the draft revisions in 2022 as planned due to COVID, and postpone the matter for 12 months.

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