As was our previous post, this one concerns a very small but very telling detail of the new mathematics curriculum. A minor perversion of the curriculum is the renaming of the study of geometry as “Space”. This stupidity was noted by AMSI last year, in their submission on the draft curriculum:
We believe that the use of ‘Space,’ for the title of a content strand will be confusing to schoolchildren and indeed, teachers, who are likely to associate the term with astronomy. We think that the strand title ‘Geometry’ is mathematically appropriate. We reiterate the importance of accuracy in mathematical language.
AMSI could work on their comma placement, but working on their emphases is probably more important. Yes, ACARA’s choice of ‘Space’ as a strand title was stupid, but it was also stupid for AMSI to whine about this when there were many whale-sized fish to fry. Of course, ACARA was more than happy to waste precious time and attention by batting back this trivia (at 2.3):
The [ACARA] team has proposed the term “Space” as a broader characterisation of the field. It should be noted that the National Statement on Mathematics for Australian Schools (1991) used Space as a strand name. Subsequently the term was used in mathematics curricula in this country for two decades, without any apparent confusion with astronomy including NAPLAN Minimum standards – numeracy.
ACARA was substantially correct, at least when playing on the terms that AMSI chose. “Space” is just a name, and a stupid strand by any other name would be just as stupid. It is ironic that ACARA chose to cite the National Statement from 1990 (not 1991), since this Statement was universally condemned for its mathematical illiteracy. Nonetheless, a name is just a name.
That doesn’t explain why ACARA bothered to change the name. The real problem with “Space”, as we have argued (at 2.3), is that it is not simply a new, alternative name for geometry. On the contrary, it is clear that “Space” was intentionally chosen by ACARA in order to signal a real-world emphasis directly at odds with the proper, abstract study of geometry. The name “Space” is poisonous precisely because it is not just another name. Here, we want to add one more detail to this name nonsense, to demonstrate ACARA’s ideological obsessiveness.
ACARA’s content descriptor codes are long. For example, one such code is
The “5N03” is the helpful bit, indicating that we are looking at the 3rd Number descriptor at the Year 5 level. The other characters, indicating that we’re looking at Version 9 of the Mathematics component of the Australian Curriculum, feels a bit clumsily overkill, but bureaucrats like that kind of thing. So, sure, if they don’t mind their codes being eight characters in length then let them have eight characters.
Or nine characters.
As it happens, “Statistics” and “Shape” begin with the same letter. Which means we cannot employ a code such as AC9M5S03, since this would be ambiguous. Instead, we must use
Which is untidy and very easy to misread. And which was entirely unnecessary: if ACARA had done nothing, had just stuck with the name “Geometry”, the coding would have simply worked.
But that’s ACARA: never let common sense get in the way of ideological obsession.