Maths Pathway Advised on the Draft Mathematics Curriculum

And the Australian Mathematical Society did not. That’s where we are.

At some point we hope to write in detail about Maths Pathway and why we loathe it. Briefly, in the very early days of MP we were contacted by one of MP’s founders and, because he came with a trusted recommendation, we gave MP a lot of and way too much consideration. It soon became clear that the MP guy was either uninterested in and/or incapable of comprehending our very strong criticisms; he was simply trying to sell us on their Revolutionary Product. We didn’t buy it. We don’t buy it. It is difficult to imagine how any kid could learn properly based upon MP and we have never met one who did.

For the moment, none of that matters. What matters now is that, according to one of its founders, Maths Pathways “worked with ACARA on advising the new maths curriculum”. And mathematicians did not. The Australian Mathematical Society did not. AMSI did not.

This encapsulates as well as anything the full-blown idiocy of ACARA’s curriculum review. Such idiocy cannot possibly be fixed in a month, no matter who is doing the trying. No one should be pretending otherwise.

31 Replies to “Maths Pathway Advised on the Draft Mathematics Curriculum”

  1. Just a question (and I will accept you either not knowing or not wanting to tell to protect sources):

    Was this “working with” at the request of MP or at the request of ACARA?

    I find both possibilities a little bit crazy, but one clearly dwarfs the other!

      1. Follow-up question, and perhaps I should have been a bit more direct with my first question…

        Do you think this has anything to do with a person I will refer to by the initials RR being on the advisory board for MP?

        Again, you are welcome to decline to answer.

        1. I’m happy to answer, since my answer is “I don’t know”. But, yes, I also noticed Rob Randall’s name as an MP advisor. I have no idea what that means in practice, but it seems very unlikely to be meaningless.

        2. If you look into the members of Maths Pathway’s ‘Education Advisory Board’, and if you further delve into each member’s own boards – both current and past members – the answers to many of your questions will hopefully reveal themselves. For the sake of efficiency, I recommend that you start at the sports section and slowly work your way forwards.

    1. One might argue that the school subject named Mathematics, once offered students the chance to study mathematics. One might also argue that, over time, Mathematics has moved away from the study of mathematics to something different. If that move was intentional, then perhaps one can understand why experts in mathematics were not invited to the party.


      1. Thanks very much, Albert. I think you’ve belled the nail on the cat. Or something.

        Indeed, the Mathematics education community do not know what mathematics is, have not the slightest interest in teaching mathematics, and they have instilled their contempt for mathematics into everything and everyone they touch. So, of course a byproduct of this ignorance and contempt is the conscious decision to freeze out mathematicians.

        So, yes, I understand why mathematicians were frozen out. The question for me is, is the general intellectual culture so degraded, are people so ignorant and distracted, that these Philistines will win. The answer, sadly, is “yes”.

        Also, since these clowns have no interest in mathematics education, they should change their titles.

  2. I’m curious to know your criticisms of Maths Pathway. I’ve never actually used MP but it doesn’t sound terrible. My understanding is that it keeps students busy working on problems individually at all different levels, so then the teacher can run “mini-lessons” on specific topics with small groups of students based on what they need to learn? I guess you wouldn’t want to use it every class though… and I wonder if it’s a huge investment for the schools who use it.

    1. wst, I don’t want to distract from the main point, which is that ACARA shouldn’t be consulting with these dubious salesmen at the expense of mathematicians, or probably at all. It is a very serious question how these guys got a seat at the table. But …

      In brief, whatever the hopes or claims, I have not seen MP work that way, or at least work well that way, and when I looked at MP closely in 2013 I didn’t think it could work well that way, and I told the MP guy that. It seemed to me the overwhelming effect had to be to turn the teacher into an administrator.

      I think it is just the same as with all these magic edu-cures: what is good is not new, and what is new is not good.

      1. I guess that’s partly it. If Maths Pathway has turned the teachers into administrators, and made themselves a robot teacher at more than 300 schools… then they get included in ACARA discussions? To be honest, I still don’t really know what a teacher is or is supposed to be. I’m still learning.

    2. It is death by worksheet! I saw it in action in a school a few years ago. I think there have been improvements since but like all ‘off the self products’ it will not suit all students or schools and will still need teacher input and direction. The marketing sounds great but NOTHING can replace good teachers and good teaching.

      1. Agreed.

        And in response to WST’s conundrum – I’m still trying to work out what a teacher is “meant to do”. Job descriptions are vague and 20 years of doing the job (as well as training/assessing pre-service teachers for a while) has taught me only two things:

        1. Good teachers can be found in both the best and the worst schools. Good teachers do not guarantee good schools and good schools do not guarantee good teachers. Sure there is some contribution from one to the other, but not always because school leaders know where or how to find good teachers and in more than one case, because the good teacher doesn’t want to travel very far, so picks a school near where they live…

        2. Some good teachers are good from the moment they set foot in a classroom. I’ve seen a (small, but non zero) number of pre-service teachers who are brilliant from their first placement. Most good teachers become brilliant because of a lifetime of practice, research (proper research, not edu-babble crap), reflection and, unfortunately learning to ignore a lot of what they are told by school leaders or education “experts” on what makes a good teacher.

        Regarding MP – I was given a presentation about 5 years ago. I understand what it is trying to do, but decided that it was not the same thing as what I was trying to do. Clearly some schools feel differently though, because I can see it is quite popular.

      2. Thanks, Vicky, and your last sentence is of course the whole point. I have nothing in principle against worksheets, but that’s not teaching. Also, when I last looked, MP materials seemed intrinsically poor.

  3. I have worked in one class as a pre-service teacher where MP was used, and I gathered that it was used often in this class. I wandered around and helped students who had questions. I wondered: How does a teacher prepare for such a lesson? What is the purpose of the lesson?

    An odd thing happened to one student who sought my advice. Whenever she went to a new question, the correct answer automatically appeared on her screen. Obviously a glitch – but funny anyway.

    1. Terry, either by accident or by choice you have hit upon the key point I was trying (perhaps without success…) to dance around.

      With a class that uses something like MP, the teacher pretty much has to cede planning control to someone else whom they have possibly never met.

      Sure, the claim is that artificial “intelligence” can assess where a student is at and provide guidance, but… really? Is that “good teaching” in the eyes of parents, students, other teachers or school leaders? Maybe it is considered better to be OK than risk having a “bad” teacher, someone not actually “trained” in Mathematics (see various other rants).

    2. …and since I was possibly way too vague in the connection between ceding planning control and the ACARA draft… a good teacher probably knows how to plan good lessons IN SPITE OF the draft curriculum, not because of it.

      Now if you will excuse me, I have some more clouds to yell at before class tomorrow…

  4. I was wondering if MP might be suitable for those students who do not function well in an ordinary mathematics classroom.

  5. Hi Marty,
    At last an opportunity to write a bit about MP.
    I thoroughly agree with your comment about MP materials being intrinsically poor; but it is far worse than that.
    When tutoring 5 years ago, my student was using MP and occasionally asked me for help with various modules she was working on. So I began to look at the modules in some detail and soon realised many things:
    1: they require a high level reading ability to gain ANY sort of benefit from completing the module.
    2: the answers were always given on each module so you would be tempted simply to look at these.
    3: but more importantly, the modules were poorly designed, badly structured and often full of errors.
    I began a correspondence with MP to discuss these issues but was shut out quite quickly.
    In case you’re interested, I’ve attached one of these questionable modules and shown some of the correspondence I had with my student about it.

    Regarding this module, there are two issues which are worth bringing to the attention of your Math teacher:

    1: Q1 part (c) talks about a shape which is IN FACT impossible and does not exist. So how are we supposed to figure out its area? Furthermore, in their answers, they state the area to be 26m. !! Incorrect units for area surely!

    2: Q7 also presents us with a problem; the shape is possible to draw but the perpendicular height of it is NOT 3m. It is in fact √12 m. So, the final calculated area is clearly wrong.

    These sorts of errors are apparent on other modules too. In my opinion, this is totally unacceptable and makes a mockery of Mathematics.

    1. Thanks, Rob. I’ll respond to your comment soon. But quickly, I’ve removed the attachment. It’s a judgment call, but I’m not comfortable with reproducing MP material here.

    2. Thanks, Rob. There’s obviously a few issues there. The most resonant is MP’s unwillingness to accept criticism.

      In general, I don’t look to bash writers/publishers for errors, as long as there is some general value and sense in the work. Of course errors aren’t great, but 100% accuracy is not the determiner of a worthy text. Which is the second point: MP materials never looked very worthy.

      May I ask, how long ago were you tutoring MP stuff? It is possible that their materials have improved. I can’t be bothered working to find out, but it’s possible.

  6. Hi Marty. As I said, the last time I saw MP materials was about 5 years ago. Hopefully, by now they have at least proofread and corrected the errors I encountered.

    1. Whoops. It helps if I read what people wrote.

      Thanks again, Rob. Given MP started around 2013, there shouldn’t have been wholesale errors at that stage.

  7. Given that statistics is so important in school mathematics (like it or not) it is surprising that the Statistical Society of Australia seems not to have been involved in the revision of the curriculum.

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