AMC and IOI results

The Australian Mathematics Trust has just announced the results of this year’s Australian Mathematics Competition, as well as the results of the Australian team in this year’s Informatics Olympiad, where the Aussie team picked up a gold, two silvers, and a bronze, their best showing to date there.  Congratulations to all participants for their efforts!

[Thanks to Peter Taylor for the news.]

The National “Numeracy” Review

[This post is authored by Judy Mousley - Ed.]

I was asked by Terry to write a guest article for the blog in my capacity as President of MERGA, but the words below have been written in a personal capacity. I encourage other MERGA members to add their thoughts, as those below are certainly not representative of anyone’s ideas but mine.

Another “numeracy” review!

The report of the National Numeracy Review (Commonwealth of Australia, 2008), becoming known as the Stanley report after the chair of the review panel, is yet another federal effort that will have little impact, largely because it has little to say that provides specific direction for the teaching and learning of mathematics. It includes many motherhood statements that have been used throughout my 15 years or primary and secondary teaching and 25 years as an academic, without articulating how curriculum and assessment guidelines can give teachers new understandings and actions that would be needed to bring about significant change. Merely stating that teaching people to be “truly numerate, involves considerably more than the acquisition of mathematical routines and algorithms” fails to challenge the status quo in Australian schools where teachers spend most of their time focusing the acquisition of mathematical routines and algorithms.

The report wastes much space discussing the meaning of “numeracy”. This is not unusual, as attempts to define the term have been made in at least five national reports in the last decade. In most other countries, the term is hardly used and people do not know what numeracy is. Those few countries where the term is used, such as England (where it was concocted in 1959 as an analogue of literacy), have varied interpretations (see, for example, Commonwealth of Australia, 2000; Groves, Mousley & Forgasz, 2003; and Willis, 1998). The Stanley report claims that numeracy is the ability to use mathematics but, as it points out, most people think of numeracy as “the basics”. This lack of clarity and agreement illustrates the folly of using “numeracy” to name (and hence shape) a major review of mathematics teaching and learning. It must be recognised by federal and state governments that it is Mathematics that is taught in schools, mathematics curricula that state or federal bodies need to outline for the use of teachers and textbook authors, and mathematics education that needs content and time guidelines. The use of any term other than “mathematics” in reviews, guidelines, professional development and the media muddies the picture for teachers, curriculum developers, parents and others. While Australians are discussing what “numeracy” means, the rest of the world is focusing on better ways to teach mathematics, the content of teacher education courses and the time given to mathematics in these, as well as what research tells us about children understanding and learning mathematics. The 2003 TIMSS results showed that Australian results have slipped down from their comparatively high position, and I await the release of the next round of results at the end of 2008 with interest.

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