2013 Secondary Mathematics Teacher Survey Report

The survey investigated teachers’ perceptions in regard to student participation in higher levels of mathematics, equitable access to qualified teachers of mathematics, and the current NSW Mathematics courses.

Recently universities have reported a decline in the number of students pursuing tertiary mathematical pathways. However, according to data published by the New South Wales Board of Studies the number of students completing the highest levels of mathematics (Extension 1 and 2) has changed very little since the introduction of the ‘new HSC’ in 2001. Each year, approximately 6000 students graduate with 3 units of mathematics and an additional 3000 students graduate with 4 units of mathematics. In total, almost 20 000 students completed a calculus based course in 2013.

Although the number of students completing Extension 1 and 2 has changed little, the MANSW survey results indicate that teachers are concerned that the number of students completing Mathematics (2 Unit) without Extension has fallen by 18% since 2001. The teachers surveyed believe that many capable students are choosing to undertake the General Mathematics course rather than Mathematics (2 Unit) to maximise their ATAR contribution. Other comments related to what the teachers perceived as excessively difficult 2 Unit HSC examinations and the demanding workload, which has a negative impact on student performance in other subjects.

Over 80% of the respondents believe that universities should re-introduce prerequisites for undergraduate degrees which require high level mathematical proficiency. In the absence of university prerequisites, some students choose a pathway for which they are mathematically under-prepared and therefore need to complete university bridging courses, which attempt to deliver the necessary content in a short time span.

The survey results also indicate that thousands of NSW students are learning mathematics from teachers who do not hold formal teaching qualifications in mathematics. The shortage of qualified mathematics teachers is particularly alarming in regional areas.

MANSW’s president, Dr. Catherine Attard, stated “MANSW acknowledges the outstanding work that ‘out-of-field’ teachers are doing to fill this void and we will continue to support them through ongoing professional development across NSW. However, there is an urgent need to develop new strategies to increase the number of qualified secondary mathematics teachers and attract more mathematically-able students into the profession of mathematics teaching. The results of this survey suggest the need for the development of a specialised Year 7-10 mathematics qualification specifically designed for out-of-field teachers.”

The full report which follows can be found here.

Mathematical Association of NSW Inc.
Tel: 02 9715 5800
Fax: 02 9715 5811

General enquiries: admin@mansw.nsw.edu.au
Members' comments and suggestions: contact@mansw.nsw.edu.au
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