With Australia’s international rankings in mathematics falling and students shunning high level mathematics subjects, a leading mathematics institute has called for decisive action on out-of-field mathematics teaching, engagement of girls in mathematics, careers awareness and university mathematics pre-requisites.
The Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) was established in 2002 in response to a need for collaboration in the mathematical sciences to strengthen mathematics and statistics especially in the universities.
In congratulating Prime Minister Scott Morrison on his re-election, the Institute’s director, Professor Tim Brown, said that amid the push to improve education, research and innovation policy, reforms to address key challenges across the mathematical pipeline must remain “a key priority”.
Professor Brown noted how Federal Government funding had played an important role in the success of AMSI programs through the Securing the Mathematical Workforce project and the Supporting more women in STEM careers: Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) – National Research Internship Program (NRIP).
“We are providing real opportunities for women in mathematics and STEM through delivery of PhD internships under NRIP, as well as opening essential opportunities to engage with the national and international research communities,” Professor Brown said.
“AMSI is keen that the Coalition work with state governments to establish data on the extent of out-of-field teaching in mathematics and review requirements for mathematical knowledge for mathematics teachers.”
However, he warned that without a clear picture of the depth and impact of out-of-field teaching, planning was “impossible”.
He also cautioned recruitment of subject specialists into full-time education would not be enough, with investment in programs to skill existing teachers essential.
“You cannot undo three decades of inaction through recruitment of specialist graduates alone,” he said.
“AMSI’s Schools Program has seen first-hand the benefits of teacher training and professional development through the Choose Maths project, particularly in remote and regional areas.”
AMSI said it is keen to see Government funding to drive a national careers campaign building on the success and impact of AMSI’s Choose Maths Careers campaign, already in classrooms.
“This is essential to assist students to link classroom learning to real-world applications and reframe mathematics as a career pathway,” Professor Brown said.
“A significant enabler, mathematics underpins how we engage with the world and enhances capacity to drive research and innovate. It is important students, particularly girls, understand the opportunities opened by mathematical skills.”