ACARA Crash 18: Errors in the Draft Mathematics Curriculum

The following is a list of errors – and possible/arguable errors – in the draft mathematics curriculum. Commenters are invited and encouraged to suggest additions, and deletions.

By “error” we mean a statement or instruction that is factually wrong or that makes no logical/mathematical/everyday sense. Some of the listed “errors” are clear-cut, while others are less so. Of course the fact that a statement/instruction made no sense to us does not prove that it makes no sense; we’ve attempted to be fair, being tough on the improper use of technical terms while giving weird phrasings a good-faith pondering in context. Nonetheless, there may well be reasonable interpretations that we have missed. (Of course phrasing that is difficult to interpret has no place in a curriculum document, but that is a separate category of sin.) As well, it is not always clear whether to characterise a statement as an error or simply a really dumb idea, but we’ve tried to stick pretty closely to “error”, leaving the noting of really dumb ideas to our other ninety-eight posts.

The list follows. The majority are elaborations. There are a few content descriptors, for which associated elaborations are indicated by a further indentation. Again, commenters are encouraged both to suggest additions to the list, and to argue for deletions from the list.

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Maths Experts Do Not Reaffirm Support For Curriculum Changes

A few weeks ago, the Sydney Morning Herald published a report by Lisa Visentin and Anna Prytz, with the pithy title,

Maths experts reaffirm support for curriculum changes as leading group sounds alarm

The “leading group” refers to AMSI, which indeed sounded the alarm, calling for a halt of ACARA’s review of the mathematics curriculum. The claim, however, that “maths experts” reaffirmed support for the curriculum changes is, in a word, bullshit. Obviously AMSI did not do so, but also, to a reasonable approximation, no one did.

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ACARA CRASH 17: Algebraic Fractures

The following are Year 10 Number-Algebra content-elaborations in the current curriculum:

CONTENT

Apply the four operations to simple algebraic fractions with numerical denominators

ELABORATIONS

expressing the sum and difference of algebraic fractions with a common denominator

using the index laws to simplify products and quotients of algebraic fractions

CONTENT

Solve linear equations involving simple algebraic fractions

ELABORATIONS

solving a wide range of linear equations, including those involving one or two simple algebraic fractions, and checking solutions by substitution

representing word problems, including those involving fractions, as equations and solving them to answer the question

And what does the draft curriculum do with these?

Removed

And, why?

Not essential for all students to learn in Year 10.

God only knows how one develops fluency with expressions that cease to exist.

RatS 14: Jen Deyzel on The Great Decline

Jen Deyzel is a retired primary school teacher, a “septuagenarian” (now octogenarian) with decades of experience. She came up in conversation with a parent, whose children are tutored by Jen. In 2017, Jen wrote an essay on the decline of Australia’s educational standards. Jen has kindly permitted us to reproduce her essay, below (and in PDF form here).

The Great Decline:

Why Australia’s Education Standards are Plummeting Fast

Jen Deyzel

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ACARA CRASH 16: Unlevel Playing Field

Each Year’s content in the draft curriculum begins with a Level description, and each of the thirteen Level description begins with the exact same sentences:

The Australian Curriculum: Mathematics focuses on the development of a deep knowledge and conceptual understanding of mathematical structures and fluency with procedures. Students learn through the approaches for working mathematically, including modelling, investigation, experimentation and problem solving, all underpinned by the different forms of mathematical reasoning. [emphasis added]

Yep, “an equal focus on building fluency“, no doubt about it.

 

And the Winner Is …

Definitely not Sydeney.

OK, in a futile attempt to unPonzi our blogging scheme, we’re closing off our four competitions.* The winners are indicated below, and any winner who has not died of old age should  email us to receive their prize, a signed copy of the best-selling** A Dingo Ate My Math Book.***

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ACARA CRASH 15: Digital Insertion

Continuing to try to rid ourselves of ACARA irritants, the following are the “calculator” elaborations from Year 1 – Year 6 Number and Algebra (sic):

YEAR 1

using the constant function on a calculator to add ten to single digit numbers, recording the numbers to make, show and explore the patterns in a 0 – 100 chart

with the use of a calculator, exploring skip-counting sequences that start from different numbers, discussing patterns

modeling skip counting sequences using the constant function on a calculator, while saying, reading and recording the numbers as they go

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Does There Exist a Sensible Australian Maths Ed Academic?

Yes, the question is rhetorical, but it is not just rhetorical.

A couple months ago, Greg Ashman asked Twitter a more specific version of this question:

[W]ho are the education academics in Australia who specialise in mathematics teaching and who advocate for explicit teaching, times tables etc.?

Ashman has a decently large following, but the replies to his question were tellingly non-existent. The only specific people suggested were the very non-Australian Jim Milgram, a hard core Stanford mathematician who took time off to wallop Jo Boaler, and Stephen Norton, a Griffith University education academic who appears solid and thoughtful, and barely visible. Anyone else?

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Robbing Peter to Play Appallingly

The time for submissions to ACARA’s review has ended. Which means it’s now time for machinations and clandestine transactions. One hopes that our Glorious Mathematical Leaders know who they are dealing with and how to deal with them.* In the main, we’ll get back to posting on other topics.** Still, there are ACARA irritants remaining, things left unwritten, and when we’re sufficiently irritated we’ll post on it.

One constant irritant has the been the “it’s all there” defenses of ACARA’s draft. Yes, so it goes, there is an increased emphasis on inquiry/modelling/whatever, but not at the expense of basic skills.

“We absolutely have to focus on problem solving [but there should also be] an equal focus on building fluency”.

So, it’s not “strategies/efficiency/skills/content” versus “problem solving/reasoning/exploring/thinking”:

“Great Maths teachers do both!”

See? The problem isn’t with the ACARA draft curriculum. The problem is that you’re not a great maths teacher.

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Last Day For Submissions to the ITE Review

We haven’t paid much attention to this, since there have been much smellier fish to fry. Still, it is worth some attention.

In April, Alan Tudge launched a Review into Initial Teacher Education, and in June a Discussion Paper was released, with an invitation for submissions. Today (midnight?) is the cut-off for submissions.*

We wrote on Tudge’s launching of the Review and, prior to that, on Tudge’s speech on general educational issues. We gave both a “meh” review. In particular in regard to ITE, we couldn’t get that excited, since reforming ITE can have no great effect while teachers are released into the current moribund, admin-bloated, directionless, culture-free educational system. Training a Jack Brabham and then throwing him into a Morris Minor is not gonna win you a lot of races.

Still, there are things worth saying, and so it is probably worth saying them for the Review. We’ll submit something.

The Discussion Paper for the Review seems well-written, although it is largely concerned with formal detail of little interest to us (and perhaps of questionable importance). Responses to the discussion paper are then intended to be guided by questions appearing at the end of each section. Again, most of these questions do not concern us, but a few seem suitable for the anchoring of criticisms. The following are the questions to which we intend to reply, followed by an indication of how we might reply:

What can be done to attract more high-achievers and career changers to the profession?

(Um, make the job not suck? Have a coherent curriculum, which assumes and encourages a culture of learning, and get rid of the endemic Little Hitlerism.)

What features of the current ITE system may prevent high-quality mid- to late-career professionals transitioning to teaching? 

(Everything. It is all pointless. For everyone. One learns to teach by teaching, and the rest is trivial.)

What are the main reasons ITE students leave an ITE course before completion?

(Perhaps a distaste for insanity.)

Are the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers fit for purpose in identifying the key skills and knowledge pre-service teachers need to be ready for the classroom?

(The Professional Standards are not fit for wrapping yesterday’s garbage.)

How can ITE providers best support teachers in their ongoing professional learning?

(By staying as far away as possible.)

Do the current HALT (Highly Accomplished and Lead Teachers) arrangements support the education ecosystem, particularly in relation to ensuring quality mentoring and supervision of ITE students?

(Of course not. “Highly accomplished” doesn’t mean highly accomplished, it means playing the game and playing it safe. Genuinely highly accomplished teachers take risks and make errors and put noses out of joint; these teachers, who are the true leaders, will seldom if ever be recognised by any such system.)

Does ACER’s Literacy and Numeracy Test Suck Balls?**

(Yes.)

 

*) Notably there is no ACARAesque sheep-herding survey, and submissions can simply be written as text, or uploaded as a Word/PDF file.

**) The Discussion paper mentions ACER’s test, but somehow failed to question its worth. We’ve corrected their oversight.