The Awfullest Australian Curriculum Number Lines

As regular readers will know, and have been ignoring, we’ve been steadily working through ACARA’s new mathematics curriculum, compiling the annoying-or-way-worse 1-liner content descriptions and elaborations. No one is reading it of course, because that would be nuts. Or, it would cause the reader to go nuts. But, we’ll continue. In for a penny, in for a pounding.

The compilation so far already paints a horrible picture, and the wrong picture, and no picture. The horribleness is the image of curriculum so unrelentingly awful, with every second line vague or half-meaningless, or directing students down some pointless, dingy backwater. The wrongness is in that the compilation does not begin to indicate how truly appalling the curriculum is; the sins of commission are nothing compared to the sins of omission and dilution and delay, the sin of overall meaninglessness. The nothingness is that the compilation is so extensive and off-putting, no one properly observes the picture.

This post is a cheat’s post. It is a list of the worst Number content description and (not necessarily related) elaboration for each year level. Of course, “worst” is plenty arbitrary and subjective; in particular, we were torn between 1-liners that are starkly awful in themselves, and 1-liners that are indicators of a more general awfulness. As in the compilation, the content descriptions are in blue, and the elaborations are in green. A reminder, the content descriptions are ostensibly mandatory and the elaborations are ostensibly optional.


name, represent and order numbers including zero to at least 20, using physical and virtual materials and numerals (AC9MFN01)

representing situations expressed in First Nations Australians’ stories, such as “Tiddalick, the greedy frog”, that describe additive situations and their connections to Country/Place (AC9MFN05)


building knowledge and understanding of the part-part-whole facts to 10, using physical and virtual materials; for example, using virtual ten-frames through a digital app or website to identify pairs of numbers that combine to make 10 (AC9M1N02)

use mathematical modelling to solve practical problems involving additive situations, including simple money transactions; represent the situations with diagrams, physical and virtual materials, and use calculation strategies to solve the problem (AC9M1N05)


add and subtract one- and two-digit numbers, representing problems using number sentences and solve using part-part-whole reasoning and a variety of calculation strategies (AC9M2N04)

using First Nations Australians’ stories and dances to understand the balance and connection between addition and subtraction, representing relationships as number sentences (AC9M2N04)


multiply and divide one- and two-digit numbers, representing problems using number sentences, diagrams and arrays, and using a variety of calculation strategies (AC9M3N04)

creating an algorithm as a set of instructions that a classmate can follow to generate multiples of 3 using the rule “To multiply by 3 you double the number and add on one more of the number”; for example, for 3 threes you double 3 and add on 3 to get 9, for 3 fours you double 4 and add one more 4 to get 12 … (AC9M3N07)


using a calculator or other digital tools to recognise and develop an understanding of the effect of multiplying or dividing numbers by 10s, 100s and 1,000s, recording sequences in a place value chart, in a table or spreadsheet, generalising the patterns noticed and applying them to solve multiplicative problems without a calculator (AC9M4N05)

follow and create algorithms involving a sequence of steps and decisions that use addition or multiplication to generate sets of numbers; identify and describe any emerging patterns (AC9M4N09)


demonstrating and reasoning that all multiples can be formed by combining or regrouping; for example, multiples of 7 can be formed by combining a multiple of 2 with the corresponding multiple of 5; 3 x 7 = 3 x 2 + 3 x 5, and 4 x 7 = 4 x 2 + 4 x 5 (AC9M5N02)

solve problems involving addition and subtraction of fractions with the same or related denominators, using different strategies (AC9M5N05)


comparing and ordering fractions by placing cards on a string line across the room and referring to benchmark fractions to justify their position; for example, \boldsymbol{\color{OliveGreen} \frac58} is greater than \boldsymbol{\color{OliveGreen} \frac12} can be written as \boldsymbol{\color{OliveGreen} \frac58 > \frac12}, because half of 8 is 4; \boldsymbol{\color{OliveGreen} \frac16} is less than \boldsymbol{\color{OliveGreen} \frac14}, because 6>4 and can be written as \boldsymbol{\color{OliveGreen} \frac16 < \frac14} (AC9M6N03)

multiply and divide decimals by multiples of powers of 10 without a calculator, applying knowledge of place value and proficiency with multiplication facts; using estimation and rounding to check the reasonableness of answers (AC9M6N06)


describe the relationship between perfect square numbers and square roots, and use squares of numbers and square roots of perfect square numbers to solve problems (AC9M7N01)

solving problems involving lowest common multiples and greatest common divisors (highest common factors) for pairs of natural numbers by comparing their prime factorisation (AC9M7N02)


establish and apply the exponent laws with positive integer exponents and the zero-exponent, using exponent notation with numbers (AC9M8N02)

using patterns to assist in establishing the rules for the multiplication and division of integers (AC9M8N04)


recognise that the real number system includes the rational numbers and the irrational numbers, and solve problems involving real numbers using digital tools (AC9M9N01)

using positive and negative rational numbers to solve problems; for example, for financial planning such as budgeting (AC9M9N01)


recognise the effect of using approximations of real numbers in repeated calculations and compare the results when using exact representations (AC9M10N01)

comparing and contrasting the effect of truncation or rounding on the final result of calculations when using approximations of real numbers rather than exact representations (AC9M10N01)


showing that \boldsymbol{\color{OliveGreen}\sqrt{a+b}\neq\sqrt{a} + \sqrt{b}} and \boldsymbol{\color{OliveGreen}\sqrt{a-b}\neq\sqrt{a} - \sqrt{b}} for \boldsymbol{\color{OliveGreen}a,b > 0}, for example, \boldsymbol{\color{OliveGreen}\sqrt{16 + 9}=5} but \boldsymbol{\color{OliveGreen}\sqrt{16}+\sqrt{9}=4+3=7}, and \boldsymbol{\color{OliveGreen}\sqrt{16 - 9}=7\approx 2.646}, but \boldsymbol{\color{OliveGreen}\sqrt{16}-\sqrt{9}=4-3=1}



11 Replies to “The Awfullest Australian Curriculum Number Lines”

  1. creating an algorithm as a set of instructions that a classmate can follow to generate multiples of 3 using the rule “To multiply by 3 you double the number and add on one more of the number”; for example, for 3 threes you double 3 and add on 3 to get 9, for 3 fours you double 4 and add one more 4 to get 12 … (AC9M3N07)

    Fuck me, make it stop.

  2. If seven is approximately two and a half, I think the approximation needs throwing in the bin.

    Typos aside, that was very painful to read.

  3. So many times it says “using strategies” without saying what strategies. I thought the idea of a curriculum was to let teachers know what it is they are supposed to teach.

    1. ACARA would argue that the “strategies” form the “HOW” and not the “WHAT”.

      Of course, one is not independent of the other…

      In fact, after reading a lot of this “WHAT”, I’m sure many a teacher will be confused about HOW.

      Private schools have some level of flexibility to ignore a lot of this rubbish. The majority of schools unfortunately must follow what the document says.

        1. This is why schools have curriculum coordinators and department heads.

          Most of them can’t interpret the document either (and some don’t pretend to be able to do so) so that is why we have PD sessions run by MAV and other providers.

          The gravy train has been standing room only for some time now.

    2. Yeah, one would have thought that a curriculum would contain a curriculum. But, you know ACARA.

      This is exactly the point made by Jensen and Ross, and exactly what De Carvalho was either too stupid to understand or too dishonest to admit.

      Also, in the true spirit of Michael Williamson, I tipped this.

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