The current state of mathematics education: An analogy

Imagine you’re a student beginning classes in woodwork. You show up at your first lesson full of excitement at the prospect of learning a new set of skills. The teacher announces, “Today we will be studying spanners.” There is a large selection of spanners of all sizes and shapes, there are nuts and bolts big and small. You spend the class using all the different spanners and getting good at picking the right spanner to match and bolt and you also get faster at using the tool.

The lesson ends, and you’re looking forward to the next one.

The next lesson comes around, this time the teacher announces, “Today we will be studying hammers.” There is a large selection of different types of hammers and you spend the lesson hammering different sized nails into different types of material.

The lessons continue in this way, the next lesson you learn saws, the next sandpaper, the next hot glue guns and so on.

By the end of the semester you think about your woodwork classes. You realise that you know how to use a lot of different tools, but you never actually got to make anything with those tools. You look back and wonder: what was the point of all that?

This is the current state of mathematics education. We make students go to class and learn about how to use all sorts of tools. One week they’ll study trigonometry, the next probability, the next algebra and so on. They do this week after week, year after year, getting better and better at using a variety of tools, but they never actually get to DO anything with those tools.

It’s time for a mathematics education revolution.

No textbooks, year levels or rote learning

Sunshine Secondary College’s Yvonne Riley in the year 7-8 numeracy class.  Photo: Eddie Jim

Sunshine Secondary College’s Yvonne Riley in the year 7-8 numeracy class.  Photo: Eddie Jim

Timna Jacks, Henrietta Cook from The Age, delve into Modern Maths in Victorian Schools and the idea of Axing the textbook. From our observation in schools we have been able to see the idea of No textbooks, No year levels and No rote learning come off successfully. To hear more about what this lookS like in the classroom and the 'Why?' click to view the full article.

If you are a school that is trialling any of the above strategies, we want to hear from you!

- Happy reading, Team Mac.

What must we get right in education?

WE SAT DOWN WITH CAITLIN MAHONY, CONTENT WRITER AT MACHINAM TO FIND THIS OUT AND MORE!

What is the one thing we must get right in education?

We need to focus on educating in the present.

All too often the conversation about education sounds like:

  • “what will students be?”
  • “how will this get them a job?” and
  • “what will they need in the future?”

These are all important considerations, but to educate a student we need to see them as who they are today:

  • “what are their interests?”
  • “what inspires them?” and
  • “how is this relevant?”

Where do you get inspiration to create real world content? 

Maths is everywhere, you just need to know where to look! I get inspired by the mundane, the stuff we see, do and think every day because mathematics has the power to give us a new perspectives and new insights.

What is something that a teacher or parent could do tomorrow to encourage students in maths?

Fold some paper! It may sound simple, but a folding paper can be a fascinating mathematical exploration for all ages. For younger kids, it’s a great way to have a conversation about fractions, and for older students there is interesting implications for exploring exponential growth!

If you had a piece of paper big enough, how many times would you have to fold it in half for its height to reach the moon?

Have a guess then watch this video to find the answer.  

What you are loving right now

  • Watching: David Attenborough’s Planet Earth II and Forensic Files
  • Listening to: Childish Gambino’s 2016 album Awaken, My Love
  • Reading: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo 

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Engagement is a crucial part of learning, but ensuring students are actively engaged is more complex than whether a student is paying attention or not. Too often educators look at engagement as a “yes or no” question: students are either engaged or they’re not.

John Almarode, associate professor at James Madison University and co-director of the school’s Center for STEM Education and Outreach says “It is not a one-dimensional concept.” Read more...

 

Maths is the hidden secret to understanding the world

Unlock the mysteries and inner workings of the world through one of the most imaginative art forms ever - mathematics - with Roger Antonsen, as he explains how a slight change in perspective can reveal patterns, numbers and formulas as the gateways to empathy and understanding. Watch here...

Talking math: 100 questions that help promote mathematical discourse

Think about the questions that you ask in your maths classroom. Can they be answered with a simple "yes" or "no" or do they open the door for students to ask better questions and promote mathematical thinking? Here are 100 questions from mathematics expert Dr. Gladis Kersaint to help you promote mathematical thinking and discourse in the classroom. Read more...

Think you stink at Maths? Amazon wants to change that

“I stink at math.” If you have kids, you’ve probably heard that phrase — or maybe you’ve even uttered some variant of it yourself. But in a world where good jobs increasingly require good math skills, that mind-set should no longer be acceptable, according to Rohit Agarwal, general manager of Amazon’s Education business unit.

Read more...

Maths education for innovative societies

There is now ample evidence that preparing students for an innovative society goes well beyond preparing them for science-related professions. Given that many professions contribute in some way to innovation, the new educational imperative is to equip a critical mass of workers and citizens with the skills to thrive in innovative societies. Read more...

Modern maths: no textbooks, year levels or rote learning

Photo: Eddie Jim

Photo: Eddie Jim

Victorian schools are axing textbooks, times table jingles and rote learning in an attempt to reverse an alarming decline in students' maths skills.

Academics have warned of a maths crisis, with the latest NAPLAN results showing no significant improvement in students' performance since the tests were introduced in 2008.

Read more...

The toughest question of all: why is Australia falling behind in maths?

Photo: Josh Robenstone

Photo: Josh Robenstone

Australia's maths achievements have been falling steadily for the past decade, including fewer students taking advanced maths. Great minds are pondering how to reverse this trend.

From the smartphone and credit cards in your pocket to the latest discoveries in the lab, mathematics underpins our society. 

The general public's perception that it's OK to not like maths is working against us. Countries that are more successful in maths value it more highly as a society. In countries like France and Germany, you would not hear that maths is not a good thing to pursue.  

Janine McIntosh, schools manager at the Australia Mathematical Sciences Institute

"It's built into the fabric of business, commerce, economics, it's the basis of science and all forms of innovation," explains Kaye Stacey, Emeritus Professor of Maths Education at the University of Melbourne. 

Read more...

What's in the Federal Budget for education?

Hockey is standing by a slowing of federal funding to the states for their schools and public hospitals.

The government in last year's Budget announced an $80 billion easing of funding to the states, sparking outrage from Labor and the state premiers.

Hockey on Tuesday told reporters ahead of his second Budget that the spending slowdown remained in place in order to balance the books.

"Some of the states are running surpluses - we are not running a surplus," he said.

"Don't shed a tear for the states."

The "bonus payment" spending had been earmarked by Labor and never properly funded in the Budget, Hockey said. However, over the next four years there would be six per cent real growth in health and education spending.

The states will benefit from a 5.6 per cent rise in GST receipts in 2015/16, to $57 billion.

New South Wales will take the lion's share ($17.3 billion), followed by Queensland ($13 billion), Victoria ($12.7 billion), South Australia ($5.5 billion), the Northern Territory ($3.3 billion), Tasmania ($2.2 billion), Western Australia ($1.9 billion) and the ACT ($1 billion)...Read more

The future of employment in Australia

...We need internet-based products for science and maths, especially for secondary school students, while we crank up support for teachers to the level where people with research degrees are attracted to teaching in schools.

Another issue with our education system is the schism between universities and business....Read more

Quit Saying ‘I’m Just Not a Math Person’

IT STARTED WITH a fairly simple problem. The class of elementary education majors were looking at energy and efficiency. This course is specifically designed to help these students get a basic understanding of the nature of science (using the awesome Physics and Everyday Thinking curriculum). Since the goal is to look at science, we don’t have too much math in the course. However, in this case students were trying to find the power needed such that a fluorescent lightbulb would have the same brightness as an incandescent bulb...Read more

Business chief Catherine Livingstone backs better education in maths and science

Business Council of Australia president Catherine Livingstone says the gap between the digital literacy of our young people and that of our competitor nations is increasing. Alex Ellinghausen

Business Council of Australia president Catherine Livingstone says the gap between the digital literacy of our young people and that of our competitor nations is increasing. Alex Ellinghausen

The cries are getting louder: do something about Australia's increasingly poor performance in educating young people in maths, technology and all their associate disciplines or watch as the employability of the coming generation dwindles away and our economy becomes increasingly uncompetitive.

Last Wednesday Business Council of Australia president Catherine Livingstone raised the cudgels yet again to try to beat this message into political leaders, telling the National Press Club that an estimated 75 per cent of the fastest-growing occupations, including those in the creative industries and humanities, will require STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) related skills and knowledge...Read more

Step by Step: Designing Personalized Learning Experiences For Students

The phrase “personalized learning” gets tossed around a lot in education circles. Sometimes it’s used in the context of educational technology tools that offer lessons keyed to the academic level of individual students. Other times it’s referring to the...Read more

Who said girls aren't interested in maths?

"We need to cultivate the mathematical potential in children - there is no telling how high they will fly as a result" (Source: shironosov/iStockphoto)

"We need to cultivate the mathematical potential in children - there is no telling how high they will fly as a result" (Source: shironosov/iStockphoto)

Every child starts school with mathematical potential, but women in maths careers are rare.

Before explorers stumbled across Australia, Europeans thought all swans were white. And the more white swans people saw, the more they believed this was true...Read more

 

Parents affect kids’ attitude to maths, says Melbourne professor

Harry Johnson, 7, and his dad, Philip, find maths fun. Picture: Alex Coppel Source: Herald Sun

Harry Johnson, 7, and his dad, Philip, find maths fun. Picture: Alex Coppel
Source: Herald Sun

PARENTS who reckon they are no good at maths, can’t do percentages, and think algebra is in the Middle East, should stop bragging about it to their kids, an education expert warns.

When adults shrug off their own poor maths ability, they are affecting children’s attitudes to the subject, said RMIT mathematics education professor Di Siemon.

“No one accepts that it’s okay to say ‘I can’t read’, but they do think it’s okay to say ‘I was never any good at maths’, which of course is not okay,” she said.

That attitude simply legitimised failure in the subject in the child’s eyes...Read more

What the best education systems are doing right

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Fifty years ago, both South Korea and Finland had terrible education systems. Finland was at risk of becoming the economic stepchild of Europe. South Korea was ravaged by civil war. Yet over the past half century, both South Korea and Finland have turned their schools around — and now both countries are hailed internationally for their extremely high educational outcomes. What can other countries learn from these two successful, but diametrically opposed, educational models? Here’s an overview of what South Korea and Finland are doing right... Read more

Four NASA mums offer their 7 best insights on getting more girls into STEM

"The wonder of outer space bewitches boys and girls alike, but far fewer women than men make it into the ranks of adults working in space science... But that’s not the case among the Intelligent Robotics group at NASA Ames Research Centre in California, where seven women are developing instruments slated for deployment on a lunar rover in 2020."