Are we trying to stir up trouble? No and, of course, yes. And yes. If we were really stirring up trouble, we’d be asking for the worst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elaboration. But yes, as with our previous competitions,1 the intention is to damn an aspect of the draft mathematics curriculum by making evident the faintness of the possible praise. Moreover, given that there is essentially no tradition of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander mathematics, something has to be said about this aspect of the curriculum. We do so.2
On July 8, AMSI released its submission to ACARA, in which AMSI called for a halt of the mathematics curriculum review. On July 20, ACARA contacted AMSI, requesting a “consultation session” with AMSI, to enable ACARA “to address [AMSI’s] concerns”. That meeting was held on August 17. Prior to the meeting, ACARA forwarded to AMSI an agenda, together with a long document, Elaboration to Agenda Items. This Elaboration document amounted to a written response to AMSI’s submission, effectively a defense of ACARA’s draft mathematics curriculum.
The purpose of this post is to critique ACARA’s defense as presented in the Elaboration document. ACARA’s defense is extensive, and is astonishing in its nothingness. The self-indulgence of the Elaboration, its poverty of argument, its manipulativeness and special pleading, its level of plain falsehood, and its smug, unrelenting certainty, its unwillingness to offer any but the most trivial concession, is phenomenal.
We shall go through the Elaboration section by section. The analysis is necessarily long, since the Elaboration is classic Gish Gallop and demonstrating the Gish requires galloping alongside. Readers are advised to pour themselves a stiff drink and to get comfortable, with the bottle within easy reach; they might be here a while.
This is our final excerpt from Teaching Mathematics at Secondary Level Tony Gardiner’s 2016 commentary and guide to the English Mathematics Curriculum. (The first two excerpts are here and here.) It is a long and beautifully clear discussion of the nature of problem-solving, and its proper place in a mathematics curriculum (pp 63-73). (For Australia’s demonstration of improper placement, see here, here and here.)
Our first excerpt from Tony Gardiner’s Teaching Mathematics at Secondary Level is here. Our second excerpt is a short remark on “financial mathematics” in a mathematics curriculum (p 75). The relevance to Australia’s draft curriculum is obvious.
Does anybody ever properly read Terms of Reference? Probably not, and in the case of ACARA’s Terms of Reference for their curriculum review, this was a fatal error. The Education Minsters who approved ACARA’s ToR screwed up. Royally.
Below, we work through the ACARA’s Terms of Reference, section by section, highlighting critical aspects to the review of the mathematics curriculum. We’ll indicate how the ToR gave, and continues to give, ACARA license to consciously and to thoroughly ignore mathematicians, as well as education ministers. We shall also indicate how, nonetheless, ACARA have violated their own Terms of Reference whenever and however it suited ACARA’s real agenda.
We’re working on a long ACARA post, which, hopefully, will be up in a day or so. In the meantime and as a bit of background for the coming post, readers may wish to have a wander through the Singaporean Primary Mathematics Syllabus.* (The syllabus begins with explanatory chapters, and the content description begins on page 34.)(Added 12/10/21 – The Secondary Syllabus 1-4 is here.)
We’ve sat on this one for a long time. We weren’t sure what to make of it, and we’re still not sure. It seems appropriate to write on it, however, and inappropriate not to.
First, some background. Back in June-July, there was some minor but notable social media activity in the maths ed world; there was encouragement for people to make submissions on the draft curriculum to ACARA before the cut-off date. That’s fine, of course, even if they had been advocating to submit in support of (or in opposition to) the draft, which did not appear to be the case. It felt, however, that there was something coordinated about it all, which if true is still fine, but telling. As well, some such encouragement came from people tied to ACARA, which felt significantly closer to the line.
Dear mathematicians, if you don’t really know about the draft mathematics curriculum, and if you are somehow unaware that the inclusion of new content that you happen to like necessitates the dilution or elimination of other content – content that is more important for everyone, and for a coherent curriculum, and which is already woefully underrepresented – then perhaps you should look beyond your own self interest, shut the hell up and listen to people who have been paying attention. Thank you.
Rebecca Urban has a report in The Australian today (Murdoch, paywalled):
Education Minister Alan Tudge says the board of the country’s schooling authority must substantially rewrite its draft national curriculum, warning he will not endorse the proposed document amid concern student outcomes would be harmed. …
In the letter, seen by The Australian, Mr Tudge urged the [ACARA] board to seriously consider recent feedback from education experts, who have flagged concerns that the proposed changes amounted to a weakening of learning standards.