The Update Post

(The preamble for this post is now a post-amble, at the end.)

(24/06/22) An update has been added to The ACARA Page.

(09/06/22) Updates have been added to The ACARA Page, a post on AMT and ACARA, and this PoSWW.

(09/05/22) Updates have been added to Specialist maths posts, here, here, here and here.

(09/05/22) A new link, announcing the new curriculum, has been added to the ACARA Page.

(06/05/22) A link to the exam report has been added to the 2021 Specialist 2 post.

(29/04/22) RatS21, on Musk buying Twitter has been updated.

(25/04/22) The Florida textbook post has been update, and there is a small update to the 2021 Methods Exam 2 post.

(23/04/22) Posts have been updated to reflect the 2021 Specialist 1 report: here and here.

(23/04/22) Various posts have been updated to reflect the 2021 Methods exam reports: here and here and here and here.

(22/04/22) Links to the exam reports have been added to the 2021 Methods posts, here and here.

(13/04/22) Updates have been added to this Boaler post and this Boaler post.

(03/04/22) A new link has been added to the ACARA Page.

(02/04/22) A new link has been added to the ACARA Page.

(02/04/22) A new link has been added to Meet the Censored.

(01/04/22) Two new links have been added to the ACARA Page.

(31/03/22) A new link has been added to the ACARA Page.

(23/03/22) California Dreamin’ has been updated, and a new link has been added to the ACARA Page.

(15/03/22) A new link has been added to the ACARA Page.

(13/03/22) A new link has been added to the ACARA Page.

(11/03/22) A new link has been added to the ACARA Page.

(28/02/22) A new link has been added to the ACARA Page.

(27/02/22) A new link has been added to the ACARA Page.

(24/02/22) A question has been added to the Methods Error List.

(21/02/22) An update been added to the Minister Robert post.

(19/02/22) A new link has been added to the ACARA Page.

(17/02/22) The post on Education Reporters and “Maths Experts” has been updated.

(08/02/22) A new link has been added to the ACARA Page.

(02/02/22) The Specialist Error List and the 2020 Exam 1 Discussion posts have been updated with comments on Q1.

(28/01/22) A few errors have been corrected in Tony Gardiner’s “Problem Solving” article.

(12/01/22) The VCAA’s Blunt Implement post has been updated (again), with some information for Specialist 12 teachers.

(11/01/22) The Another Fraction Question post has been updated.

(06/01/22) The post VCAA’s Blunt Implement has been updated.

(05/01/22) The fraction question post has been updated.

(04/01/22) A couple links on the Maths Masters Quizzes page have been changed.

(24/12/21) The Secret Exam Business Posts have been updated with links to the exams: here, here, here, here and here.

(14/12/21) We’ve updated the recent posts on Julian Assange and Jo Boaler.

(24/11/21) Questions from the 2021 exams have been added to the Specialist Error List, Methods Error List. and Further Error List. The post on the implementation of the new VCE curriculum has been updated.

(15/11/21) WitCH 76 has been updated.

(14/11/21) WitCH 74 and WitCH 75 have been updated.

(11/11/21) The Specialist Exam 2 post has been updated.

(11/11/21) The Methods Exam 2 and Specialist Exam 2 posts have been updated.

(09/11/21) The Methods Exam 1 and Specialist Exam 1 posts have been updated.

(02/11/21) We’ve done corresponding updating of the Methods Error List. We’ve also updated today’s hypothesis testing WitCH (again) and the independent probability WitCH.

(02/11/21) We’ve done a lot of updating of the Specialist Error List, and we’re essentially done, except for future errors, and for whatever past errors people point out to us. We’ve also updated all the recent Specialist WitCHes: here, here, here, here and here (the last of which I screwed up).

(26/10/21) Questions from the 2016 and 2017 exams have been added to the Specialist Error List and the Methods Error List.

(24/10/21) Questions from the 2018 exams have been added to the Specialist Error List and the Methods Error List.

(22/10/21) Questions from the 2019 exams have been added to the Specialist Error List and the Methods Error List.

(21/10/21) Questions from the 2020 exams have been added to the Specialist Error List and the Methods Error List.

(21/10/21) Questions from the 2021 NHT exams have been added to the Specialist Error List and the Methods Error List.

(16/10/21) Two questions have been added to the Specialist Error List, and one to the Methods Error List.

(12/10/21) We’ve added a link to the secondary curriculum in this Singapore curriculum post.

(08/10/21) The post on the 2021 NHT Methods exams, here, has been updated, noting revisions to the report on the second exam. New comments are in blue.

(27/09/21) Rats 2: Meet the Censored has been updated with a new profile.

(22/09/21) The posts on the 2021 NHT exams, here and here, have been updated, with minor comments on the examination reports. There are also brief updates to the associated WitCHes, here and here.

(07/09/21 – 11/09/21) The posts on the 2020 VCE exams have been updated with comments on the examination reports: Methods 1, Methods 2, Specialist 1 and Specialist 2.


How should we improve this blog? Yeah, yeah, by deleting it. We know. But, other than that and similar ACARAesque thoughts, what would make the blog more interesting, and more functional? We have some ideas, and a few implementations are on the shortlist (so, don’t hold your breath). And, we’re always open to suggestions.

One thought/request we received was to notify followers when a post is updated, particularly since updates sometimes come months (or years) later. We looked, and it seems possible but not so easy (at least for a Luddite) to implement. So, instead we’ve decided to create this Update Post.

The idea is, whenever we make a significant update, to a WitCH or whatnot, we’ll record it here, with an indication of the update and a link to the original post. Then, at least there is just the one spot to check. The first such update is below.

Please tell us in the comments why this is a stupid idea, and let us know your superior ideas.

30 Replies to “The Update Post”

  1. Hi
    Being new to this site, or at least quite recent, it would be nice to have a glossary of the abbreviations you use, such as WitCH etc. perhaps just a page off the menu?

      1. I don’t think Marty expected the blog to become as popular as it has. I think he thought maybe 1 other person might be interested …. Imagine his surprise when he realised nearly double that number were interested.

  2. Dear Marty
    In response to your Update Post, with regards improvements
    1. Reassurance, that your commentary will not cease. Bad Maths is the only forum that attempts real illumination of the issues that confront the maths teaching and education profession.
    2. Yes, a summary of the meaning of terms like WitCH (I still don’t know).
    3. The establishment of a framework for clearer exposition of ideas like inquiry learning/problem solving v explicit instruction. The terms are too often used in a glib and facile manner, the label-libel syndrome.
    4. Continued attention to the hucksters, they’re everywhere!
    Best wishes, Ian

    1. WitCH: What is this Crap Here?
      PoSWW: Proof of Stupidity Without Words
      RatS: Read and then Scream
      NotCH: Not Crap Here

      For 1, I’d like that too. But I don’t ask, I think it is a shitty thing to ask. So instead I just periodically thank Marty for his work and point out the obvious (that it is truly excellent).

      For 3, I think that is quite difficult. In practice these terms are often moving targets, and resist a proper definition. But Marty is welcome to have a go at it…

      For 4, absolutely!

    2. Thanks, Ian. I was fishing for criticism rather than compliments, but I’ll take what I catch.

      Re 1 and 4, I’m not planning on going anywhere, although this blog feels a bit Frankensteiny. I’d like to think about what I’m doing here, and why, but I’m too busy doing it. So much crap …

      Re 2, see Glen. But I’ll also try to set up a clear navigation to the site.

      Re 3, the suggestion to try to create a frame for conflicts such as inquiry-explicit is an interesting one, but is difficult for reasons Glen suggests. I won’t dismiss the idea, but I’m not going to blindly jump in, either. To me, it’d be like trying to debate Nationals-Liberal climate policy. Sure, one can criticise specific proposals, hugely, and someone’s gotta do it. But any such criticism misses and devalues the fundamental point: they are coal-hugging psychopaths who are lying through their teeth and have no interest in reasoned debate. To engage is already to lose.

      Similarly, most modern education “theory” is so insular, so special-pleading and so all-round ludicrous, I simply cannot see the point in getting into their idiot mud. Greg Ashman does so, and I think he writes clearly, correctly and pointlessly. I don’t see that Greg, for all his good and hard work, convinces anyone. (Neither do I, but I’m not trying.)

      For me, the better way, or at least the easier and funnier and more fun way, is to shoot down specific idiocies, and to issue general challenges. Perhaps that’s the way to respond to your request, to issue a challenge for the most compelling evidence or argument for some application of enquiry learning. That, at least, stops the target from moving. Unfortunately, the defenders of the nonsense I’m attacking would refuse to ever acknowledge this blog exists, much less respond to a challenge. But I can’t help that. I’ll ponder.

      1. Re: 3. I agree that “The terms are too often used in a glib and facile manner, the label-libel syndrome.” But I don’t think anyone can expect anyone to actually take this on (unless there was a significant incentive). Particularly on a voluntary basis.

        I think the only pragmatic option would be to provide links to sites that establish at least some of “a framework for clearer exposition of ideas like inquiry learning/problem solving v explicit instruction.” Should the inclination be to find them … Should any such websites exist …

        I totally agree with Glen – “In practice these terms are often moving targets, and resist a proper definition.”

        Perhaps anyone wanting to use such terms should provide the definition (or a link to the definition) that they are using. That would at least be a starting point.

  3. This might be really difficult (and it might work better as a frequent-commenter-team effort) but whenever there is a WiTCH, any links to “further reading” would be really great.

    I will openly admit, I can rarely spot the Crap in many of the posts (although I can see “something is wrong”, identifying exactly what and why is a challenge, albeit a welcome one).

    Outside this blog and frequent google searches for things like “Boolean logic” or anything else that might soon appear in the Specialist curriculum, it is difficult to find decent professional development at the moment!

    And if anything, off-site schooling has actually helped rather than hindered me in this pursuit…

    1. Thanks, RF.

      I know some, probably most, of the WitCHes are difficult. If one is immersed in the world of school maths, which, largely, teachers and students must be, it is difficult to see that world from an outside perspective. That’s why I think the updates are important, even once the main issues have been noted and discussed in the comments. I do really want to catch up on all those old WitCHes, and to keep on top of the new ones. But, it’s usually a *lot* of work to write those updates. I’m trying …

      You’re right, I should look to link to explanatory material. The trouble is, typically there is nothing appropriate to link. Finding material that is sufficiently focussed on the topic and pitched at the correct level is not easy. And, the sad fact is, most mathematical writing is appalling. It tends to be either logically sloppy and poorly, vaguely written, or it is unreadably pedantic.

      1. Just on the topic of explanatory material – I know AMSI some years ago produced some material aimed at teachers. I read the graph theory (Derek Holton) notes as a starting point to re-learning the topic when I saw it in the VCAA draft for Specialist.

        But I suppose the chances of an organisation like that offering to pay you to write the explanatory material on isolated topics that are often super-critical of VCAA are not big enough to be measured without negative indices.

          1. I found it to be the best starting point I could find. It had enough references to (what I could remember from 3rd year undergraduate studies) as the main ideas and at the very least pushed me in the right direction.

            I’m still talking about Graph Theory here. A lot of the other material I had a look at but decided it was pretty much stuff I already knew.

            Still grateful for AMSI for publishing it.

    2. It’s a good idea, and I agree with RF that commentators (particularly regular commentators) could/should take some of the responsibility for providing ‘Further Reading. This could be a link to a website or an attached document the commentator might have come across. I know that to an extent this simply creates different ‘extra work’ – vetting and moderating such ‘references’. But I think there are enough competent regular commentators to create at least a decent first approximation of vetting such material.

      I believe there is a loose ‘code of conduct’ that generally works well in these blogs that would facilitate such an informal system – excluding the language used to describe various incompetent organisations and the various gormless, sanctimonious, deceitful, prevaricating, recalcitrant individuals that free-load inside them.

  4. Marty’s comment in recent post, with reference to difficult issues:

    “For me, the better way, or at least the easier and funnier and more fun way, is to shoot down specific idiocies, and to issue general challenges.”

    It sits nicely alongside the late great cartoonist Bill Leak (at least in earlier times), as quoted by Fred Pawle in his just-published biography of Bill, talking of his early submissions to The Bulletin in the early 1980s:

    “I suddenly found that it placed me in this really unique position of being able to not only, you know, shout and scream at the radio when I was listening to question time or getting hot under the collar when I was reading the papers, but actually being able to vent my spleen on paper and know that the people that I was upset about and the things that were making me angry I was actually able to comment on in a public way and in a way that I knew they would have to see. I really enjoyed it, it was exhilarating and there was really no turning back from that moment.”

  5. If it is criticism you’re after, here are two things. One practical and simple but maybe impossible, and the second likely a pointless suggestion.

    First, the impossible. I love the mathematics-based posts the most. WitCHes, PoSWWs, those are my favourites. I think setting good exam questions is an important skill, and critically assessing other questions is a fun exercise that itself is a crucial part of this.

    But, quite apart from this, they are also like fun games. I don’t want to be too influential when I think that I understand the issues. I don’t want to wreck the fun of others. Often it isn’t relevant, because I’m pretty sure that either (a) what I’m pointing out is obvious; or (b) what I’m upset about is not what others might be upset about. Here is my question: I’d like to be able to post something that is initially “hidden”, and then can be revealed later (e.g. if I missed the point after all). This might be impossible, or Marty might think it is a shit idea and I should just decide to comment or not, and to what extent, by myself.

    The second, likely pointless suggestion, would be to just have more maths-focused posts. I like details. I like teaching. I like learning. So, selfishly, I’d like to have more opportunities to engage in these things. I also really enjoy the atmosphere and we have such a great group of regulars, it feels like some real learning/teaching interactions are actually happening.

    The reason why it is a pointless suggestion is because I’m kind of asking for just more of the same, and if Marty could do this, he probably would. But, whatever, I’m still saying it. Marty can tell me to fuck off :).

    1. Thanks, Glen. That’d be a “no” to both.

      With the suggestion for “hidden comments” or whatnot, it feels too contrived, and unnecessary. Obviously, some commenters are mathematically stronger/weaker, and presumably the same is true readers more generally. So, for anything of a puzzle nature, like a WitCH, it is usually preferable if the stronger guys hold their fire, at least for a while. But, in the main, it seems that they do. As far as I can see, it works pretty well.

      As for more consciously mathsy posts, I’ll keep it in mind, but I don’t have any real interest, and cannot see the point. The world is drowning in information, including mathematical information, and I don’t see the value in me adding to that. I don’t have any particular skill there, or anything compelling to present.

      If I have anything sufficiently worth offering to the public, it seems to me it is as a critic.

  6. In addition to the starting date of a thread, could there be a date for the latest addition to the thread?

    1. Terry, I’m not sure what you mean. In the updates above I’ve indicated the date on which I added something to the relevant post. Are you suggesting I give an indication somewhere else?

      1. I meant here:

        The Update Post

        by marty

        September 13, 2021

        11:09 pm

        21 Comments on The Update Post


        ACARA Crash, education, posww, RatS, WitCH

        1. OK, I sort of get it. I don’t think I can easily add such information to the top matter, but I can add the latest post to the top of the content, before the preamble. I’ll sort it out next time I update.

  7. Marti,

    What i like about your blog is your natural frankness and forwardness to call out errors, inaccuracies and lack of rigour in some mathematics solutions and administrator errors which not all current teachers may be able to do freely for fear of reprisals from their “overlords” interspersed with some challenging recreational maths.

    The character Mark Baum (or possibly Vinny or Ryan Gosling’s character) comes to mind from the Big Short
    sample attached (please excuse the racial stereotype)

    One suggestion as to a short? list of recommended mathematics texts and/or websites for the aspiring year 12 student/undergraduate

    Calculus and Analytical Geometry ( Spivacs,Apostolou?,Stewart?,..)
    Complex analysis,
    Linear Algebra,

    1. I’d be a lot less frank if a few people were a little more frank. And if you think this comment is about you, you’re probably correct.

      1. Marti,

        My last suggestion was genuine and the Big Short was a brilliant comedy IMO about the GFC with a number of anti heroes or contra cyclical investors depending on your point of view

        Steve R

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