All about the real world

Photographer:  Ivan Knyazev  Source: Moose (Icons8)

Photographer: Ivan Knyazev
Source: Moose (Icons8)

Every maths teacher has been asked the question ‘Why do I need to learn this?’ at some point in their career.

We know that maths is vital for life and future careers, with 75% of the fastest growing jobs requiring these skills. Yet the numbers of students choosing maths are declining as are the scores of Australian and New Zealand students in the subject globally.

The good news is we do know how to answer that age-old question and re-engage young people in maths.

It’s all about bringing the real world into the classroom.

Two proven ways to do this are through events that spark an interest in the subject, and classroom resources that connect the subject to the real world and 'the why' of STEM.

When students attend events that connect the real world to maths and engineering, they see why maths matters. In fact, over 75% of students who have attended just one event changed their mind from a ‘no’ to a ‘yes’ about STEM careers.

We love these events and they make a big difference. But what happens when you get back to school and have a room full of engaged students looking at the same old maths resources? How do you continue the momentum from the event and keep them engaged?

And what if you can't get to the real world events - if there isn't enough time in your curriculum to take a whole day off, or it's too far to travel?

That's where real-life resources come into play. They bring the real world into the classroom for you. You can get the same results without leaving the room.

We found that more than 82% of students had a greater understanding of how the maths they were learning in class was applicable to the real world after completing the In Real Life quests. Answering the age-old question, and making maths fun and engaging is driving these results for our modern learners.

We’ve seen that changing student perceptions can also flow on to subject selections for year 11 and 12. In some instances we’ve seen the number of female students double or triple in Physics and Engineering Technology classes. Even more surprisingly, one school, Kelvin Grove State College in Brisbane, who regularly attended events reported they went down to zero females in Engineering Technology after they were unable to attend an event one year.

“We didn’t attend an event one year. As a result, NO girls enrolled in our Engineering Technology class of 32 students. We haven’t made that mistake again!”

- Kelvin Grove State College

“Our STEM enrolments have jumped from 13 students to 29 in one year. This is exactly what we were hoping to achieve by demonstrating the relevance of these subjects to future careers.”

- Clairvaux Mackillop College

What made this difference? We know. It’s showing students how maths and science are used in the real world.

Learn more about real world maths resources here –

The maths behind yachting


Just spent the day out on our investors yacht, sailing around Moreton Bay.

> Gorgeous bay views.

> Stunning piece of machinery.

> Great company.

> Fantastic business mentoring.

What more could you ask for?

I think our next Maths In Real Life quest will have to be about yachting. So much maths! Nautical navigation, coordinates, map projections, bathymetry, speed, acceleration, depth...and of course, the best angle for diving off the top of the yacht...without over reaching! Still working on that one...

Special thanks to:

Pete, our skipper for the day, for keeping us safe and on track.

Leisa for being so welcoming and keeping us hydrated and well fed.

Andy for...everything.

Superstars to smash science gender stereotypes

30 female scientists and technologists have been named the first Superstars of STEM – ready to smash stereotypes and forge a new generation of role models for young women and girls.

More than 300 applicants vied for a spot to be a Superstar, with the successful candidates to receive training and development to use social media, TV, radio and public speaking opportunities to carve out a more diverse face for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Announced today by the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos AO, the women will learn how to speak about their science and inspire others to consider a career in STEM.

Machinam founder, Dr Jillian Kenny has been named among the 30 STEM Superstars.

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?


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 

How to ensure students are actively engaged and not just compliant

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.


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.


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. 


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