The state of maths education

  • 2 minute read
  • 17 October 2022

Young people are struggling and their workload is following

The last two years have been full of statistics. They’ve overrun the news, our social feeds and conversations worldwide. But statistics are not just numbers. They represent real people.

As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are revealed it is clear to see that the mental health of young people has been significantly impacted. These impacts are multifaceted and include everything from anxiety directly related to COVID-19 and the measures in place to stop its spread, to social and economic concerns, and stress about school and future goals.

A 2021 headspace survey found that 74% of young people reported that mental health was worse since the outbreak

Additionally, 86% reported COVID-19 had “a negative impact on either their mood, wellbeing or sleeping“. And according to UNICEF 67% of young people had concerns about their education being ‘disrupted or held back’ due to the pandemic.

These statistics, coupled with student workload suffering and a declining number of Australian students choosing to study maths in their senior years of high school is a serious concern. The Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that employment is predicted to increase in professional, scientific and technical services by 12% and health care by 16% in the next four years. But the STEM pipeline of job seekers with the skills to take on these roles is declining across the board. This is ‘a major concern for the industry’, according to the Australian Industry Group’s CEO Innes Wilox. The 2018 PISA results comparing the performance of students internationally showed that only 10% of Australian students demonstrated advanced knowledge of mathematics, compared to 44% in the top performing country.

Beyond the headlines concerned with jobs and student performance are other worrying truths. There is a smaller percentage of girls, compared to boys pursuing maths-related careers. But it’s not just girls missing out.

Our data shows that traditional ways of teaching maths will see an average of just 9% of students reaching or exceeding the expected curriculum standard for their year level

This means that by the time these students complete Year 10, the vast majority are underprepared to continue their studies in senior maths, pursue tertiary courses or further studies in related fields, or successfully enter the workforce. What’s more concerning is that only 11% of students would reach a minimum of level 9 — the level of understanding needed for students to be fully numerate — by the end of their schooling.

In addition to the above student impact, these results support research findings that leadership quality, school culture, consistency of teacher practice and teacher professional development are important drivers for student growth. This is why the Maths Pathway model, at its core, is about teacher practice, providing schools with a scalable framework and supporting teachers and leaders through personalised coaching and ongoing professional learning opportunities. Together we can support students to not only get through the fallout of the pandemic years, but to also thrive.

Author: Maths Pathway
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