What a month. It’s raining mendacity.
Today, the ridiculous AMSI-AAMT-MERGA statement received further press coverage, this time in a report from education stenographer, Suzan Delibasic (paywalled, Murdoch):
“Leading experts are calling for a maths curriculum overhaul, with a major review set to focus on fixing declining academic results.”
Once the stage has been set with straight-faced paraphrasing of AMSI-AAMT-MERGA nonsense, Delbonis’s report consists of quotes from three of these “leading experts”, beginning with AAMT‘s CEO, Allan Dougan:
“The whole idea of a maths class where the teacher teaches the content and the students practise it 300 times, that’s what we’re moving away from.”
300 times? If a kid is assigned 30 exercises as practice, the school will call Child Services. 3 times is much closer to the current mark, particularly in primary school, where the real damage is being done.
We have no idea where Dougan dredged up his Dickensian dream, but of course it has nothing to do with reality. The reality is that decades of “leading experts” killing the teaching of technique, of denigrating proper practice is a huge part of why Australian mathematics education is currently a disaster. Dougan apparently imagines the cure is less practice than the trivial amounts that currently exist.
To illustrate the point, Dougan provides his own, striking example:
“[Dougan] said one problem-solving task could involve year 6 students taking part in an activity called It All Adds Up, where each letter of the alphabet is given a dollar value”
“Letter A is $1 to Z being $26. You can start asking students open questions such as finding a four-letter word that costs $50 —the success of this task is how they approach it and how they think about problem solving.”
Looks like a fun game. How about VOID? Or CLOT? Do I win?
Seriously, Year 6? As an add-on activity for Year 2, maybe Year 3, sure. But if you imagine it reasonable to expect Year 6 students to gain anything from such an addition game, then your sense of appropriate skill level bears no relation to reality. And even for Year 2 or Year 3 students, it’s a game, which by definition cannot be the main game. You learn addition by practising addition – the carefully structured 30 times thing – not by the occasional random sum in the middle of a game.
Our second Leading Expert is AMSI‘s Director, Tim Marchant:
“Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute director Professor Tim Marchant said he was concerned by the shortage of qualified maths teachers.”
“The data shows about 50 per cent of schools have maths classes taught by teachers that aren’t qualified in maths,”
Well, it wouldn’t be AMSI if they weren’t punching down, whining about unqualified teachers. But Professor Marchant also considers classroom activities:
Prof Marchant said group activities in the classroom helped learning and made maths “fun” … He suggested hands-on learning experiences including using Rubik’s cubes to help with problem solving.
Rubik’s cubes. Not enough games, not enough “fun”, that’s the problem.
Once upon a time, we had hope that AMSI would be a genuine force for improving Australian mathematics education. Now, we’d be happy if AMSI would just shut up, stop signing ridiculous statements and go away.
Our final Leading Expert is Peter Sullivan, Emeritus Professor of Education at Monash University:
“The revised curriculum needs to be simply written so teachers can understand and comprehend it; we want the big ideas clearly articulated,”
That’s Peter the Great there, the guy who led the writing of the current Australian mathematics curriculum.
Leading Experts. The “experts” part is debatable, but the “leading” is absolutely clear. These people are leading Australia to an even deeper level of educational Hell.