Not all students need higher math, but we can make math more engaging in the early years of school
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End of 2019, New South Wales announcement this would make math compulsory throughout school. Victoria will have another, easier, grade 12 math subject in 2023 to increase the number of mathematics students in higher levels.
Initiatives to push more students into higher mathematics stem in part from the idea that students must be equipped with skills for the jobs of the future, driven largely by automation. the federal government considers STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) as “crucial to Australia’s changing future”. A resource kit for STEM educators developed by the federal government, States:
It is expected that future workers will spend more than twice as much time on tasks requiring science, mathematics and critical thinking as they do today.
But the number of students taking higherlevel math courses has thoroughly. Nationally, less than 30% of students choose higherlevel math based on calculation, which has declined significantly over the past 20 years.
There are many arguments to encourage more students to take higher math courses. This is to make the subject more interesting, to ensure a sufficient number of specialized teachers and, of course, to make mathematics compulsory.
Read more: Fewer Australians take advanced math courses in grade 12. We can learn from countries that do it better
For now, only Tasmania requires students to follow basic mathematics up to grade 12. in ACT and NSW can finish their math studies in 10th grade if they wish. South australia, the North territory and Queensland make students take it right a mathematics unit in the last two years of high school.
But how important is it for every student to graduate with high level math?
Mathematics and the future of work
The argument that every student needs advanced math for their career doesn’t always hold up. A 2013 study out of 2,300 workers in the United States, less than 25% use math beyond fractions in their current job.
But we are told that the nature of work is changing rapidly and employment in jobs requiring STEM skills is grow faster than in others. It may be true. Although the federal the government also highlights not all growing industries are focused on STEM skills. They include:
Most of these jobs will require strong math and computational thinking skills, including problem solving that may come from subjects other than math.
A Deloitte Report in the future of work also noted the importance of human skills in automated industries:
[â€¦] jobs increasingly require us to use our core – interpersonal and creative roles, with unique human skills such as creativity, customer service, caring for others and collaboration.
A federal government report echoed this by advising those looking for work to:
remember to focus on your employability skills, rather than your technical skills [â€¦] Communication, reliability, teamwork, patience, resilience and initiative are necessary for all jobs, and will continue to be the case in the future. [â€¦] About 75% of employers consider employability skills to be as important, if not more, than technical skills.
Math is a part of most of these skills. But this is certainly not the only subject that teaches them.
What subjects can give students the skills they need?
In a general way, some of the skills students will need in their future – both in their work and in their daily life – to include:

cognitive flexibility: the ability to adapt to the changing world and the information around you; be a lifelong learner

traditional and digital literacies: basic literacy, numeracy and media literacy (including the use of technology)

creativity and imagination: the human traits that separate us from machines and bring a human perspective to our work

computational thinking: problemsolving process that we need in our work and life

an ethical and sustainable practice: a commitment not to harm each other or the planet

Indigenous perspectives and cultural competence: promoting reconciliation and working successfully and respectfully between cultures and customs

wellbeing: taking care of our mind, body and crowd.
These skills are not taught only in mathematics but in all disciplines, including science, geography, visual arts, health and physical education, languages, history and design.
What kind of math skills do students need?
In his 2016 book, Mathematics Mathematics: and other STEM delusionsAmerican bestselling author Andrew Hacker suggests that we allow students to explore their passions in later school years instead of forcing them into advanced math.
He also recommends that we teach basic math so that students develop math and critical thinking skills that they can use throughout their lives.
Computer skills are the ability to understand complex problem, develop possible solutions, and then present those solutions in a way that a computer, a human, or both can understand.
These skills are what primary mathematics should aim for, with an emphasis on the interdisciplinary links between key areas of learning. And strong basic math skills provide a foundation for a lifetime.
Learn more: Don’t Solve For X: Letting Kids Explore Real World Scenarios Will Keep Them In Math Class
But NAPLAN Numeracy Results over the past decade, as well as scores in the International Student Assessment Program, indicate that many teachers are unprepared to effectively teach elementary mathematics to an increasingly diverse student population.
Current mathematical assessments tend to limit possibilities and interdisciplinary connections by teaching mathematics in a discrete manner.
Many schools use projects and portfolios to develop these relevant skills, with learning outcomes based on ‘doing’ rather than regurgitating facts. This is not to stray from the goal of traditional numeracy skills. Rather, it’s the way we teach them and honor their relevance in multiple contexts outside of math that makes the topic more engaging.
It is therefore important that math lessons allow students to create, design, fabricate, construct, display and present.
These ideas are at the heart of current journals on NSW Curriculum and the Australian program.
Armed with these foundational ‘basics’, all students could relate their teenage passions to the STEM skills they need for the future they envision – and many can then choose advanced math courses with confidence.
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