Final Day: Our Submission to ACARA

A reminder, today is the last day to make a submission to ACARA’s review of the draft mathematics curriculum. And, a further reminder, you can directly email your submission to ACARA via the yellow box half-way down this page.

Below is our submission to ACARA.



The following is my submission, on ACARA’s draft revisions as part of ACARA’s review of the Australian Mathematics Curriculum.

My position is that ACARA should halt the review. Or withdraw it. Or whatever. Call the process whatever you like, but, please, ACARA should stop. ACARA must stop.

I am not going to argue for the existence of what I believe are the systemic flaws in the draft revisions. You will have had many such, very weighty, submissions, in writing and in person, and you would either treat these submissions with proper and respectful consideration or you would not. A further submission along these lines from me will add no perceivable weight.

What I will argue is that ACARA must stop, because ACARA does not have mathematicians, or at least sufficiently many mathematicians, even remotely on board with ACARA’s proposed revisions. One may argue how this state of affairs has come about, but one cannot argue with the simple fact: ACARA does not have sufficient backing from the community of Australian mathematicians.

Mathematicians’ voices are, of course, not the only voices that need to be heard. Mathematicians are not the rulers here. But mathematicians’ voices are key, and cannot be ignored. Mathematicians are, in the language of the review’s Terms of Reference, the subject matter experts. Any plan to implement a new mathematics curriculum, particularly a radically new mathematics curriculum, without the solid support of the subject matter experts is doomed to failure, or to absurdity, or to both.

Please listen to reality, and please stop the review process.

Kind Regards, Dr. Marty Ross

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.

Continue reading “AMSI Calls for a Halt of the Mathematics Curriculum Review”

What Are the Arguments FOR the Draft Mathematics Curriculum?

This one is a companion to our problem-solving treasure hunt, and again amounts to a competition. We have written roughly ten million words on what is wrong with the draft mathematics curriculum. And plenty of people, including a number of big shots, have signed the open letter calling for the draft curriculum to be withdrawn. But where are the arguments for the draft curriculum? There is undoubtedly support for the draft curriculum. In particular, we are aware of a decent amount of snark directed towards the open letter and this blog. What we are unaware of is any substantive arguments in favour of the draft mathematics curriculum. The only articles of which we are aware, we posted on here and here. The first article came out before the draft curriculum and doesn’t amount to a substantive defense of anything. The second article was written in direct response to the open letter, and is so weak as to warrant no response beyond the comments already posted. And, apart from these two articles we are aware of nothing. No blog posts. No tweets. No anything. Just an arrogant and vacuous dismissal of the draft’s critics.* And now to the competition:

What is the strongest argument FOR the draft mathematics curriculum?

To be clear, what we’re asking for are very specific examples of good things within the draft curriculum, examples of content and/or elaborations that are genuine plusses. So, for example, claiming “the focus on mathematising” as a good won’t win a prize. First of all because the suggestion is really stupid, and secondly because such a generalist statement provides no specific evidence of how the mathematising is good. If you really want to argue that the mathematising is a plus then the argument must be based around very specific examples. Similar to our problem-solving competition, the intention here is not to imply or to prove that there is nothing of value in the draft curriculum. Rather, the competition is intended to imply and to prove that there is very little of value in the draft curriculum. Your job is to try to prove us wrong. Answer in the comments below. The provider of the most convincing evidence will win a signed copy of the number one best-selling** A Dingo Ate My Math Book.  

*) If anyone is aware of any article/post/tweet/anything in support of the draft curriculum, which also contains at least a hint of evidence, please let us know and we will seek to address it.

**) In Polster and Ross households.  

Update (29/07/21)

We’ve finally ended this. The winner is really nobody, but we’ve awarded it to John Friend. See here for details.


One Week to Email Submissions on the Draft Curriculum

Submissions on ACARA’s draft mathematics curriculum close next week, on July 8, And, note, you do not have to use ACARA’s sheep-herding submission form. You can email your comments to ACARA, via the yellow “Email submissions and comments” button, near the bottom of ACARA’s consultation page. (We could include the email link here, but somehow that feels incorrect.)

Should you submit something? Yes, you should, for the same reason that you should vote against ScoMoFo in the next election. The point isn’t that your action is likely to change anything; the point is that it feels good. So, if it feels good to simply submit the open letter, then do that. But you should submit something.

Not convinced? Then maybe the following will help convince you. ACARA’s consultation page encourages feedback with the following line:

The online survey includes open fields to allow you to provide general comments about what you think we have improved and what you think needs further improvement.

So, either 1) what they’ve improved, or 2) what needs further improvement. On the off chance you believe something might fall into a third category, perhaps you might want to let ACARA know about it.

Does the Draft Mathematics Curriculum Contain Any Problem-Solving?

We’ve written about this before, and the point is obvious. But, it’s apparently not sufficiently obvious for some wilfully blind mathematicians. So, let’s go again. Plus, there’s a prize for the best comment.*

ACARA is playing people with a cute syllogism.

  • Problem-solving is good.
  • The draft curriculum contains lots of problem-solving.
  • Therefore the draft curriculum is good.

Yep, the syllogism is flawed from the get go. But in this post we want to focus on the second line, and we ask:

Does the draft mathematics curriculum contain any problem-solving?

Certainly the draft curriculum contains a hell of a lot of something. As we’ve noted, the draft refers to “investigating” or some variation of the word 298 times. And, students get to “explore” and the like 236 times, and they “model” or whatever 264 times. That’s a baker’s ton of inquiring and real-worlding, which some people, including some really clueless mathematicians, regard as a good thing. Ignoring such cluelessness, what about genuine mathematical problem-solving?

The draft curriculum refers to “problem(s)” to “solve” 154 times. But what do they mean? When, if ever, is the draft referring to a clearly defined mathematical problem that has a clearly defined answer, and which is to be solved with a choice of clearly defined mathematical techniques? To the extent that there are any such “problems”, do they rise above the level of a trivial exercise or computation? In the case of such trivial “problems”, is the label “problem-solving” more than a veil-thin disguise for the mandating of inquiry-learning?

In brief, is there more than a token amount of the draft’s “problem-solving” that is not either real-world “exploring/modelling/investigating” or routine exercises/skills to be taught in a ridiculously inappropriate inquiry manner?

Perhaps genuine mathematical problem-solving is there, and we are honestly curious to see what people have found or can find. But, we’ve found essentially nothing.

And so, to the competition. Find the best example of genuine, mathematical problem-solving in the draft curriculum. Answer in the comments below. The most convincing example will win a signed copy of the number one best-selling** A Dingo Ate My Math Book.


*) Yes, yes. we have those other competitions we still haven’t finalised. We will soon, we promise. As soon as we’re out of this ACARA swamp, we’ll be taking significant time out to catch up on our massive tidying backlog.

**) In Polster and Ross households.


Update (29/07/21)

We’ve finally ended this. The winner is, hilariously, Glen. See here for details.