Dozens of mathematicians and maths teachers have written to the national curriculum authority, concerned that changes to the maths curriculum will mean “students end up knowing less”.

They criticised proposals to delay the teaching of key concepts such as linear equations (ax+b=c) and times tables, which were pushed from year 3 to 4 and were framed in terms of patterns and strategies, with no emphasis on mastery, the letter said.
The further elimination and weakening of fundamental skills will contribute to the root cause of Australian students slipping in international comparisons: the students end up knowing less mathematics, the letter said.
ACARA said the draft has borrowed from the Singapore curriculum. But one of the letters signatories, maths teacher and University of NSW PhD candidate Greg Ashman, said students in Singapore learn times tables in year 2 and 3.
He said students in Singapore were expected to become fluent in, or master, their time tables. We are moving in the opposite direction. Theres been a significant softening of times tables; a similar thing has happened to linear equations, which is the entry point to abstract maths, he said.
Another signatory, University of NSW Emeritus Professor of Educational Psychology John Sweller, criticised the draft curriculums emphasis on inquiry learning, or the teaching philosophy that students learn better if they discover things themselves.
As far as Im aware, not a single [study] has indicated that if you work something out for yourself, youll remember it any better than if someone tells you, he said. Humans have evolved over endless generations to get information from each other.
However, the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers chief executive Allan Dougan, supports the draft. He said maths knowledge was important, but then theres the next step, which is what [students] do with that.
Its about us looking at how we equip our young people to go out and be effective users of maths in the 21st century, how to contribute to scientific research, the economy, to finance, it all requires maths to be used in different ways, he said.
Not every young person will be a mathematician. What we are trying to do is make sure that every young person has access to the mathematical knowledge and skills that will equip them for life beyond school.
Fay Ligonis, a former primary school teacher who runs Super Kids Tutoring in Double Bay, supports teaching multiplication as early as possible, starting in kindergarten with language around groups of and using concrete materials and games in years 1 and 2.
She champions talking in kids values by relating multiplication back to every day events, such as shopping, and multiplying objects they are interested in.
Taking that pressure off until they get to year 4 might be good but I definitely think they need to be exposed to the language of multiplication earlier, she said. And addition, you need to understand addition to understand multiplication. Thats what multiplication is, repeated addition.
ACARA chief executive David de Carvalho said it was understandable teachers would have different perspectives on the curriculum.
ACARA welcomes all views and will be carefully considering those contributions that are submitted through the consultation website in fulfilling the terms of reference given to us by Education Ministers, he said.
NSW is working on its own maths curriculum, which is aligned with the national curriculum. A spokeswoman for the NSW Education Standards Authority said NESA was working closely with the education sectors to draft a response to the proposed revisions to the national curriculum.
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