Eddie Woo and Greg Ashman

A few days ago, the Centre of Independent Studies held a forum, Ensuring Australia’s Maths Teaching Adds up to Success. The stars of the show were Eddie Woo and Greg Ashman, and the video of the forum has now been posted.

Of course the main thing to note about this forum was the astonishing decision to not include any women. But, ignoring that disgraceful aspect, the forum is well worth watching. We have our thoughts (of course), but we’ll save them until after people have had a chance to watch and to comment.

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Greg Ashman Tells ACARA to Get Stuffed

Well, not in those terms. Greg Ashman is always polite and professional, to a fault. But, clearly, ACARA has pissed Greg off.

As regular readers will be aware, ACARA’s Top Secret Draft Curriculum was not approved by the recent education ministers meeting, and consequently ACARA was effectively ordered by Acting Minister Robert to go back, to consult with “experts” and to get it right. For sundry reasons, this is an impossible and absurd assignment, but everyone in charge is hell-bent on pretending otherwise. And so, ACARA apparently went away to form a Top Secret Committee to engage in a Top Secret Consultation Process on their Top Secret Draft Curriculum. Continue reading “Greg Ashman Tells ACARA to Get Stuffed”

The Australian Academy of Science’s Secret Backflip

Last April, the Australian Academy of Science made fools of themselves, by signing onto the idiotic and shadowy joint statement, Why Maths Must Change. Compounding the foolishness, it turned out that AAS was signed onto this nonsense statement by “educational/administrative people” and without the consultation of the AAS fellows. Then, in July, AAS came out with a tepid statement, walking away from the joint statement and walking towards nowhere. Finally, almost a year after this absurdity began, AAS has taken a sort of a stand. In a locked room. With the lights out.

Last month, AAS posted “a statement regarding proposed revisions to the Australian Curriculum for Mathematics” on their NCMS website. The statement begins with three paragraphs of motherhood and then, in the fourth and final paragraph, it says a little something:

The mathematical sciences decadal plan considers that “all young Australians need a strong foundational education in mathematics and statistics”. The Academy recognises the critical importance of foundational knowledge and skills, and strongly supports their inclusion and emphasis in the national mathematics curriculum. Additionally, it is important that students engage in reasoning and problem-solving. It is through these activities that students can meaningfully consolidate, apply and extend their understanding, knowledge and skills and gain an appreciation of the elegance and the power of mathematics. [emphasis added]

It’s not great, but at least there is a clear message about “foundational knowledge and skills”. There is also an implication of proper pedagogical order, that the reasoning and problem-solving come later, although AAS didn’t have quite enough sense to make this explicit.

One also has to ask, how did it take well nigh a year to come up with such an it’ll-have-to-do statement? And, while we’re asking, why is the statement on the NCMS site only, and not on the main AAS site? And, last question: why make such a statement and decline to tell anyone you’ve made it?

So, sure, the statement is welcome. But seriously, what a pack of clowns.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Curriculum: A Farce in Two Acts

(With apologies to Stephen Sondheim and Zero Mostel. Wise readers will skip to the content.)

Nothing familiar,
Something peculiar,
Nothing for anyone:
A curriculum tonight!

Something that’s galling,
Something appalling,
Nothing for anyone:
A curriculum tonight!

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RatS 17: Taibbi – Loudoun County: A Culture War in Four Acts

This one is a bit old now, and it’s more an American thing. It’s such a crazy story, however, it is still compelling reading. Aspects of this nonsense also appear to be taking hold in Australia, so one should not be too quick to dismiss it as one-of-those-crazy-American-things.

Last November, the Democrats screwed up, throwing away the Governorship of Virginia. In ways this was just a typical Democratic screw-up, just like their screw-ups over many decades. In other ways, however, the screw-up demonstrated how things are getting way, way screwier. The political battle was largely played on the fields of education and race, and in both respects the Democrats were the Bad Guys. (Well, the Worse Guys.) That takes some heavy-duty doing. Continue reading “RatS 17: Taibbi – Loudoun County: A Culture War in Four Acts”

What Should We Write About?

Having fixed maths education and having run out of things to say, we’re open for suggestions.

Yeah, well, not really, or even close. We have, however, said all we plan to say on ACARA and their ridiculous curriculum, at least until whatever happens happens. And, although our to-do list runs to several volumes, with some to-dos kind of pressing, there is now, finally some space for choice. So, if there is something you wish us to write upon, some WitCH you particularly wish to see updated, whatever, suggestions are welcome. They’ll be ignored, but they’re welcome.

ACARA’s Response to AMSI’s Submission

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.

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