Relationships, not qualifications, key to better outcomes in maths – study

Relationships, not qualifications, key to better outcomes in maths – study

A soon to be released report commissioned by the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers (AAMT) has shown that the relationships teachers develop with students in the classroom is more critical to engaging students than the level of their qualifications in maths.

The survey of 2,500 maths students and teachers found that relationships and soft skills from maths teachers led to a better level of student engagement in the subject.

Given 35% of teachers have flagged leaving the profession in five years, a shortage of specialist maths teachers has been a concern for many in the education sector, with only a third of maths teachers having a specialist qualification in the subject.

Former teacher and Co-Founder of research house Pivot, Cleo Westhorpe, says that survey highlights how the ability of teachers to set high expectations for their students while at the same time boosting their confidence is key. 

“Many students get discouraged in maths classes when they feel intimidated or lost,” Westhorpe said.

“Our research shows that those teachers who invest in getting to know their students, promote collaboration in the classroom, and actively seek feedback on their students’ learning experience are highly effective.”

The report 'Boosting Student Engagement in Maths' makes five key recommendations, including expanding teaching strategies, focusing on relationships in the classroom, and taking on board student feedback in terms of what's most effective.

Alternative strategies teachers might employ include using narrative to connect maths to topics of wider everyday interest and grouping students at similar ability levels for the completion of projects and assignments. 

“The decline in student participation rates in maths over the last few decades has been stark with year 12 participation in higher level maths dropping below 10% for the first time in 2022, and we need to do something to arrest that,” Allan Dougan, CEO of AAMT said.

“Engagement is critical to retaining that interest in and focus on maths and sciences and we commend this report and its recommendations to school leaders and teachers.”

The above story originally appeared as a media release from AAMT and has been republished with permission.