New study reveals ‘crisis figures’ in maths education

New study reveals ‘crisis figures’ in maths education

Less than one-in-four Australian Year 7 to 10 students have a qualified maths teacher every year according to new data from the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI).

The report, titled: ‘Crunching the Numbers on Out-of-Field Maths Teaching’, reveals 76% of students will be taught by an out-of-field teacher at least once and 35% of students twice in the first four years on high school.

Worryingly 8% will be taught by out-of-field teachers for all four years.

Co-authors, AMSI director, Professor Geoff Prince, said modelling undertaken by the Institute confirmed time was running out for action.

“These are crisis figures. Australia’s mathematical capability cannot be put at risk for another two decades, the time to act is now and must include those already in the classroom,” Professor Prince said.

The Institute’s modelling shows a solution focused on specialist teacher recruitment is unlikely to halve Australia’s current rate of out-of-field maths teaching within 13.5 years.

At least 200 current out-of-field teachers would need to be retrained for every 1,000 new graduates annually to reduce rates to 10% within ten years. A five-year solution would see this figure soar to 600 current teachers for every 1,000.                                                                  

These figures cast doubt on an aspirational ten-year recruitment solution posed earlier this year by the Federal Government.

Professor Geoff Prince said it was clear it would be impossible to meet the current shortfall and match retirement and attrition rates without upskilling the teacher workforce.

“If we do not support graduate recruitment with retraining of existing out-of-field teachers, it is unlikely we will see rates fall to ten percent within the next two decades,” Professor Prince said.

With maths a must for 75% of growth employment areas and worth over $140bn to the Australian economy, the pair is urging both sides of government to do the maths on policy to turn the tide on out-of-field teaching.

AMSI Choose Maths Outreach Manager, Michael O’Connor, who has seen first-hand the impacts of out-of-field teaching through his work with AMSI Choose Maths, said the cost of inaction was evidenced by the falling number of students participating in mathematics.

In 2016 only 7% of Year 12 girls undertook advanced maths compared to almost 14% of boys.

“Over the past twenty years the number of students taking advanced and high-level mathematics has fallen dramatically, out-of-field teaching plays a key role in student engagement and retention,” O’Connor said.