Adam Carey Inquired, But What Did He Learn?

Well, at least he didn’t use the expression “maths experts“, but there’s not much else to recommend Adam Carey’s piece in today’s Age. Carey is The Age‘s Education Editor, and his report is titled,

Maths Curriculum’s most pressing conundrum: “inquiry-based learning”

Yep, it’s a conundrum. Like whether or not to stick your hand in a blender.

Yeah, ok, it’s reasonable for Carey to report on this debate, and he does so in a reasonably fair manner. Carey also starts off well and accurately, by declaring as a fact that the draft curriculum ‘has swung towards “inquiry-based learning” ‘. But Carey’s report is primarily concerned with the benefits or otherwise of inquiry-based learning; to this end, Carey’s report is pretty silly, and pretty pointless.

To begin, and with all due apologies to evangelist Greg Ashman, inquiry-based learning is not the most pressing conundrum failing of the Australian maths curriculum. As we wrote, the most pressing conundrum of the Australian maths curriculum is how it came to be a bucket of dog poo.

But, anyway, Carey wants to write about inquiry-based learning. What does he learn? What can we conclude from Carey’s report? Not a hell of a lot. Carey reports, fairly, what a bunch of Usual Suspects say about inquiry learning, and that’s pretty much it. There’s essentially no analysis or push-back, just a bunch of quotes. There are few clues for whom the reader should believe,* or why.** Donna Lu’s recent Guardian report was way more insightful.

Who does Carey quote? Greg Ashman, of course. And Stuart Robert. And Peter the Not So Great. And MAV’s CEO, Peter Saffin, whose organisation has been such a beacon for proper criticism of the current powers. And Colin Chapman, “one of Victoria’s new master teachers”, and a member of ACARA’s teacher reference group (the reference group without a single mathematician). And head of mathematics Rachael Gore, who is also a member of Carey’s ridiculous “maths wars” panel. And, of course, as usual, not a single mathematician.

Ironically, Carey’s report makes a pretty good metaphor for inquiry-learning. If you don’t really know what you’re asking, don’t ask the right questions to the right people, don’t know how to conclude, and don’t even seem interested in conclusion, what the hell is the point?


*) Greg Ashman

**) Because the other people are spouting utter nonsense.

17 Replies to “Adam Carey Inquired, But What Did He Learn?”

  1. The application of any learning theory is limited by the capacity of the individual teacher putting it into practice. Why the focus is continually on theory rather than teacher capacity is beyond me.

  2. Quote from MAV CEO Saffin: “… said Mathematical Association of Victoria chief Peter Saffin. The association was comfortable with the draft curriculum presented last year and is eager for it to be approved so that schools can begin to adopt it next year.”

    That’s why the MAV is totally irrelevant to me. Because of its moronic and sycophantic kowtowing to VCAA, ACARA etc. To Saffin: I doubt you represent the views of most of the MAV members. You certainly don’t represent MY view. You’re eager for a piece of shit to be approved simply “so that schools can begin to adopt it next year”. You fool. Most maths teachers are more eager to adopt a BETTER draft LATER than a piece of SHIT earlier. [edited]

    Quote from a so-called ‘master-teacher’: “Colin Chapman, one of Victoria’s new master teachers and a member of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority’s teacher reference group for mathematics, summed up the difference, saying: “If you’re looking at multiplication, let’s say, is it more useful to know your eight times tables by heart, or to recognise that to multiply any number by eight you just have to double it three times?” he asked.

    The clear implication being that rote learning of times tables is bad. And that rote learning in general is bad. [edited] And completely misrepresenting explicit teaching. Serving the ACARA propaganda agenda. What a surprise that a member of ACARA’s teacher reference group for mathematics would say this. Ditto Peter the Not So Great.
    Note: And Colin Carpenter is not even a mathematics ‘Master Teacher’ – he’s a Technology teacher – whatever technology means. Technology means anything from woodwork to computers … Yep, Col Carpenter sure is qualified to be on the MATHEMATICS reference group and give his OUT-OF-FIELD ignorant opinion. Was Hayley Durea not available for comment?? She’s not ACARA affiliated and she’s a mathematics teacher. Her opinion would be far more relevant than some ACARA affiliated third-rater like Colin Carpenter.

    To Adam Carey: You’re quoting from the wrong people. Opinions from ACARA-connected sources are meaningless. They are only going to repeat what ACARA says. Speaking to Ashman was good. But Adam … what does a sample of teachers independent of ACARA think? What do mathematicians think? Actually we know what they (via AMSI) think – the ACARA draft is diabolical. I know you want to give a balanced report, but if 90% are against it, you don’t give equal weight to both sides. Because the opinion is NOT evenly split. I didn’t see any open letter signed by people in \displaystyle favour of the ACARA draft … I want to hear what a genuine expert – a mathematician – thinks. [edited]

    1. John, I’ve left most of your comment there, but made three edits.

      This one was tricky. Normally I would delete such a comment outright. But, Chapman and Saffin (and Gore) are apparently happy to have their ridiculous opinions quoted in a major newspaper, so they are fair game. And, their opinions are so ridiculous, they’ve well earned a whack.

      In particular, Peter Saffin’s view as presented by Carey is disgraceful. If Carey has accurately represented Saffin, and if Saffin has accurately represented “the MAV” then I cannot see why any principled teacher* would wish to associate themselves with the MAV in any manner.

      *) Or mathematician. And if you are a mathematician reading this, yes, I mean you.

      1. Thanks, Marty. No worries. And I think it’s very well-said that “Peter Saffin’s view as presented by Carey is disgraceful. If Carey has accurately represented Saffin, and if Saffin has accurately represented “the MAV” then I cannot see why any principled teacher … would wish to associate themselves with the MAV in any manner.”

        I think it’s worth mentioning that Saffin has ZERO qualifications in mathematics. His qualifications are Grad Dip Environmental Science & Bachelor of Education (Science, Media Studies), Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Media Studies.

        I will also elaborate that Hayley is a Mathematics Teacher and a 2022 ‘Master’ Teacher (Mathematics) in the inaugural Teaching Excellence Program at the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership.

        And while I think the whole Teaching Excellence Program at the Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership is simply more Merlino-spin, from Adam’s point of view getting an opinion from such a source is reasonable. But get the right person! Or don’t quote anyone from there, certainly not an out-of-field ‘Master’ Teacher in Technology (which as I said earlier, could mean anything from woodwork to computers) who has a clear affiliation with ACARA.

    2. I know nothing about Colin Chapman (or is that meant to be Carpenter?—I don’t know), but in regard to his comment about multiplying by 8, it seems to me that he is feeling pretty good about knowing this apparently arcane fact that 8 equals 2 cubed. If he has to multiply 8 times 7, does he think “Hmmmm, that’s 14… 28… 56”? Life must be difficult for someone who is -that- pedestrian when approaching a simple multiplication. His statement really comes across as if he is saying that any kid who knows this little maths secret will be well on the way to possessing the maths knowledge and wisdom of a True Master.

  3. There was another article yesterday that quotes a mathematician, Professor Ole Warnaar!

    “As professional mathematicians, we are all problem solvers, so it is extremely important, but unfortunately what seemed to have happened in the curriculum is that, to make room for more problem-solving, they took out some of the core and key skills required to effectively carry out the process of problem-solving,” he said.

    “It’s a bit like giving someone some timber and rope and ask them to build a life raft, but you’ve never taught them how to tie a proper knot.”

    1. Thanks, wst. Yes, also by Adam Carey, and a much better article. I’ve added an update, noting the article, to this post.

      Also, Ole is not simply a mathematician, unlike Ashman and Sullivan and Saffin and Chapman and Gore; he’s a very good mathematician.

      1. Saffin is not a mathematician. He’s a mathe-nothing. He’s a CEO who’s brought a CEO mentality to things he has no understanding of.

        At least the others teach mathematics, even though Sullivan and Chapman are ACARA lackeys.

        Ashman and (I think …) Gore are the only two that have a non-ACARA affiliation and whose opinions therefore merit consideration. On the surface, Gore’s qualifications are very respectable – I’m having a lot of trouble reconciling this with her opinions. Maybe ambition trumps truth?

        1. John, the vast majority of teachers now drink from the “Let’s all explore and have fun” fountain of Kool Aid. I simply assume this is the case of any teacher unless there is reason to believe otherwise. Why would you believe otherwise about Gore?

            1. I don’t do Linkedin.

              I haven’t seen anything to suggest that Gore is consciously or cynically aligning herself to ACARA. The majority of people who push the inquiry crap genuinely believe the inquiry crap. I would assume Gore does as well.

              1. Whether it’s conscious, cynical, unconscious or inebriation from the Kool Aid it still amounts to the same thing – an alignment with ACARA and its piece of shit (aka Version 9.0).

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