Do schools need to change tack on maths teaching?

Do schools need to change tack on maths teaching?

Reports show that Australian students have not improved their achievement on international tests for a decade, and are falling behind students in many other advanced nations.

In maths, the proportion of high performers in PISA has halved to 11% over the past 14 years, and low performers outnumber high performers two-to-one.

As public alarm over these results has grown, discussions have focused on the need to strengthen not just student learning in maths but the ability of teachers to drive greater engagement in this crucial discipline.

Recent studies have also shown that just one-third of teachers feel prepared and equipped with the knowledge and tools to teach numeracy.

The Educator spoke to Maths Pathway co-founder, Richard Wilson, who says the most common approaches to teaching maths are based on “a one-size-fits-all, production line model”.

“Teachers are forced to rely on textbooks, gimmicky ‘ed-tech’ products and archaic reporting requirements, which limits their ability to respond efficiently to students’ needs,” Wilson said.


“Historically, reforms in maths education have played around the edges of the problem – tweaking the delivery mechanisms, adding technology to the classroom, but never changing the learning and teaching model itself.”


Wilson said continuing down this path will only lead to “underwhelming results”.


However, he said there is nothing to stop Australian schools from adopting “a world-leading learning and teaching model” like the one his company is advocating and “completely transforming their student outcomes.”


“Our teachers have access to rich, timely and actionable data about their students. With this data, they can easily understand exactly where students are in their comprehension of the maths curriculum and adapt the teaching to that,” he said.


“Teachers respond by using that data to target micro-lessons for small groups of students, and run rich and engaging tasks for the class, safe in the knowledge that our platform is delivering the core elements of the curriculum at the right time, in the right way, to every individual student.”


Wilson said that since adopting the platform, Maths Pathway schools have more than doubled student growth rates and increased engagement – outcomes he says are linked teachers being able to evolve beyond delivery of content to become “facilitators and coaches of real student learning.”


“In the words of Conrad Wolfram, we want to produce ‘first rate human problem solvers, not third rate human computers’. Our students develop mathematical skills at twice the rate of the old models, and get far better outcomes as a result,” he said.


Wilson added that Maths Pathway schools can satisfy the requirements of the curriculum while simultaneously training students to be creative problem solvers.


“This can allow students to have exceptional computational thinking skills, and to be eminently prepared to live and work in a world defined by automation, technology and rapid change,” he said.