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How Should Mathematics be taught?

Updated: Feb 15, 2022

This is a recent article from the Guardian Australia "Cracking the formula: how should Australia be teaching maths under the national curriculum?" which refers to Australia's decline in global rankings for mathematics (despite spending so much more in education). Australia has fallen from a ranking of 11th in 2003 to a ranking of 29th. Basically:

"You are, on average, 12 months behind now as an Australian student than where you were 20 years ago”

The article is equally applicable for us in Fiji in terms of the questions. Fiji has not participated via the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and we don't know if there are homegrown historical standards to compare. In a future article we will provide you links and ideas for doing your own assessment of the types of questions that are asked (or else look up the link we have provided).

The article is a good read in that it brings up the two types of teaching and the different points of view as to their success or otherwise in the teaching of (at least) mathematics:

  • Explicit teaching

  • Inquiry-based learning

The article which we seriously recommend you read brings up the pros and cons of both methods in the teaching of mathematics and how various academics are lining up on different sides of the argument. There has been a move to inquiry-based learning but many of us will remember the old 'rote' based learning methods of the teachers past and think that was 'better' - the teacher used to show us on the blackboard how they got the answer.

Aside from nostalgia and whatever else, we think Fiji's ranking might be, the professional questions that arise from the article are for us to consider as teaching professionals (and to learn): 1. the countries that have improved relative to Australia - what methodologies do they use, is there something we could use in the classroom? 2. What methodologies do you use in the classroom and, what else can we do that makes a difference personally? Perhaps it might start with some inquiry based learning of our own :) ?

Here is the article from the Guardian. As an idea for the future we might breakdown the article further and provide the arguments made by the academics as a bit of focus.

PS : As 'extra' we have provided a link to the 2022 PISA Mathematics framework here. If you are interested in the definition* of a mathematically literate student then this is a good read including 'what to teach' as they say should it be just a toolbox of concepts?. Of course there are other frameworks, we are presenting this given the prevalence of PISA scores and the fact it is undertaken by the OECD a grouping of the world's largest groupings.

* " For the purposes of PISA 2021, mathematical literacy is defined as follows: Mathematical literacy is an individual’s capacity to reason mathematically and to formulate, employ, and interpret mathematics to solve problems in a variety of real-world contexts. It includes concepts, procedures, facts and tools to describe, explain and predict phenomena. It assists individuals to know the role that mathematics plays in the world and to make the well-founded judgments and decisions needed by constructive, engaged and reflective 21st century citizens." (p.7)


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