While we’re working away on ACARA, here’s another post to keep readers occupied. Below are released “benchmark” test items from TIMSS 2019. (Further details about the benchmarking can be found in the full report (pp 35-59, 172-198).
How should we improve this blog? Yeah, yeah, by deleting it. We know. But, other than that and similar ACARAesque thoughts, what would make the blog more interesting, and more functional? We have some ideas, and a few implementations are on the shortlist (so, don’t hold your breath). And, we’re always open to suggestions.
One thought/request we received was to notify followers when a post is updated, particularly since updates sometimes come months (or years) later. We looked, and it seems possible but not so easy (at least for a Luddite) to implement. So, instead we’ve decided to create this Update Post.
The idea is, whenever we make a significant update, to a WitCH or whatnot, we’ll record it here, with an indication of the update and a link to the original post. Then, at least there is just the one spot to check. The first such update is below.
Please tell us in the comments why this is a stupid idea, and let us know your superior ideas.
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.
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.
We don’t pay a lot of attention to ITE and education faculties. Our working assumption is that it’s all nonsense. So, unless something specifically Maths Ed-ish arises, or it looks like someone is about to start a promising war, we just leave them in peace to do their silly stuff. Sometimes, however, their stuff is so silly, a response is called for.
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.
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.
The following are Year 10 Number-Algebra content-elaborations in the current curriculum:
Apply the four operations to simple algebraic fractions with numerical denominators
expressing the sum and difference of algebraic fractions with a common denominator
using the index laws to simplify products and quotients of algebraic fractions
Solve linear equations involving simple algebraic fractions
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
Not essential for all students to learn in Year 10.
God only knows how one develops fluency with expressions that cease to exist.
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
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.