Maths: making your career count
New resources for the teaching and learning of K–10 mathematics will soon become available to every primary and secondary school in the country. The resources will be provided through The Improving Mathematics Education in Schools (TIMES) project, conducted by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) and funded by the Australian Government.
The TIMES project aims to provide teachers with reliable, convenient and succinct reference material that they can use to understand and plan the mathematics they will teach. It also offers a means for teachers who have not had the benefit of formal training in mathematics to deepen their knowledge of mathematical content and learn new ways to teach it well.
Background to the project
Knowledge of mathematics is increasingly important in the workplace and everyday life, but Australia's education system faces mounting difficulties in providing for this need. Fewer students are undertaking mathematics at Year 12 and in universities, and each year fewer students have been choosing mathematics teaching as a career. As a result, teachers taking mathematics classes in secondary schools have varying degrees of understanding of mathematics and often they are not entirely comfortable with teaching the subject.
The National Numeracy Review stressed the importance of high standards for teacher training in mathematics. Tertiary education faculties and teacher registration institutes are now establishing mechanisms to ensure that new primary teachers will have basic mathematical skill and understanding in place.
The review also called for more teacher professional development in order to improve mathematics content knowledge, to equip teachers to set higher-order mathematical problems for students, and to provide special and focused support for teachers who are currently taking mathematics classes without training in the field. The review additionally called for closer links between schools, education systems and universities.
AMSI has contributed to these goals through the ICE-EM Mathematics program. Launched in 2005, the program has supported mathematics teachers by providing textbooks that are carefully structured to lead students through important mathematical ideas by providing teacher support via email, telephone and regular school visits, and by providing teacher professional development which focuses on the mathematical content teachers need to engage students and help them move along in their understanding.
The TIMES project
It is hoped that the TIMES project will now supplement the ICE-EM program by offering a more structured approach to the development of teacher content knowledge in both primary and secondary schools. The article now describes some new materials that the TIMES project will make available.
At the end of 2010 every Australian school will receive a copy of the AMSI Careers Pack, including careers information in the form of videos, posters and booklets.
AMSI recognises that many young people and their parents are not aware of the importance of mathematics and do not understand that a lack of quantitative skills will limit career options and their participation in society. Until now there has been insufficient career information that documents where mathematics is used in a range of jobs other than those requiring mathematics degrees. Consequently AMSI has updated and expanded our suite of career information to take account of this information.
Every primary and secondary school in the country will receive a set of twelve careers posters specifically designed for a school audience. These posters will show students that mathematics is a useful and practical skill that can enhance participation in a range of careers. Each poster will feature one person and will profile their career and the use they make of their mathematical skills. Photos, quotes from the interviews conducted and a slogan will be presented in a format suitable for this age group.
AMSI has produced 10 three-minute careers videos showcasing a range of careers and highlighting the practical uses of mathematics. The videos are highly engaging and could be used as a discussion starter in the classroom. A DVD of these videos will be delivered as part of the AMSI Careers pack.
A 20 page booklet featuring 20 profiles of careers requiring mathematics skills is included in the AMSI careers pack.
The slogan Mathematics: Make Your Career Count features prominently in all materials.
In the coming months every teacher across Australia will be given access to approximately 70 online modules for professional development in K–10 mathematics. Each module will contain a discussion of a component of the mathematics curriculum up to the end of Year 10. With assistance from Education Services Australia (ESA) the modules will also be linked to relevant areas of the Australian Curriculum.
Each module comes with exercises that teachers may wish to undertake. The exercises are accompanied by an icon that links through to an answers page, which includes a screencast that sets out a solution to the problem.
The modules will be used as a source of information for planning lessons, as way of building teachers' confidence to cover challenging topics, and as a stimulus for discussion about strategies and pedagogies. In some jurisdictions the use of the modules may count towards professional development hours.
Maths by Email
Maths by Email is a free, fortnightly email newsletter aimed at primary and secondary students and their teachers and is available now. Visit: www.csiro.au/mathsbyemail to subscribe.
Produced jointly by CSIRO and AMSI, Maths by Email delivers stories from the cutting edge of mathematics, hands-on activities from all fields of maths and is packed with brainteasers, facts, weblinks and other resources.
Each issue contains news stories exploring recent applications of mathematics. These stories clearly explain current uses of maths and how these uses are changing the world. They show readers what can be achieved with just a little maths.
Maths by Email also includes hands-on activities. Using inexpensive household items, each activity guides readers as they explore mathematical concepts. These concepts are then explained and developed in notes on what is happening and their possible applications. The activity section empowers readers by showing that they too can do maths.
Maths by Email is filled with mathematical facts, links to curious and interesting maths websites, puzzling brainteasers, and maths events and professional development opportunities. It is written in clear language, accessible to students. Stories and activities include curriculum links and contain weblinks for continuing investigation.
The nation does not have a full complement of qualified secondary mathematics teachers, nor do we have sufficient numbers of qualified scientists, engineers and mathematicians to help us grow and innovate as a nation. We need to teach mathematics to more students, for longer and do a better job of it if we are to turn this situation around and have the capability to manage our future.
AMSI would like to acknowledge the support of the Australian Government in funding this worthwhile and innovative program and in recognising the importance of mathematics to all Australians. The TIMES Project is funded under the Quality Outcomes Program administered by the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR).
AMSI is a national, collaborative venture supporting the mathematical sciences. Together with our 31 members including universities and key mathematics organisations, our mission is to promote and strengthen understanding and use of the mathematical sciences in Australia's culture, science and economy. Through its education division, the International Centre of Excellence for Education in Mathematics (ICE-EM), AMSI has been undertaking wide-ranging education programs at both school and tertiary levels since 2004. See www.amsi.org.au for more information.
Key Learning AreasMathematics
Subject HeadingsMathematics teaching