The Australian is reporting today that the National Numeracy Review, commissioned two years ago by the Council of Australian Governments, has finished its final report (a background paper to the review can be found here, and a discussion paper with terms of reference can be found here. Here is AMSI’s submission to the review). The report raises concerns that the minimum standards for maths and numeracy skills at the primary and high school levels are too low, and recommends that teachers devote more time to these topics than is currently required.

The Australian is also running a statement by the education minister, Julia Gillard, on the importance of increasing achievement levels in literacy and numeracy, as well as a dissenting opinion by Kevin Donnelly, who warns of the dangers of forcing teachers who are inexperienced with mathematics into teaching more maths and numeracy skills to students.

Coincidentally, a similar report has been released in the U.S. by the National Council on Teacher Quality, entitled “No common denominator: The Preparation of Elementary Teachers in Mathematics by America’s Education Schools“. (See also a recent recommendations on maths education by the U.S. National Mathematics Advisory Panel.)

[*Update*, July 16: additional links added; thanks to Jan Thomas for the references.]

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Judy Mousley, on 12 July, 2008 at 5:05 pm said:The report of the National Numeracy Review is not yet available online, so it is difficult to tell what it says about the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers (AAMT) standards. From the comments of Kevin Donnelly (The Australian, July 12-13), it seems that these have been endorsed as a framework for professional development.

This is appropriate because the standards are comprehensive and research based. They have already proved to be most useful in assessing mathematics teachers’ work and framing teacher education courses. The standards cover a wide range of types of knowledge and skills that teachers of mathematics need.

Donnelly wrongly assumes that the AAMT standards focus on mathematics content, but he should know that it is state governments who determine what mathematics is to be studied at what level in primary and secondary schools.

This will soon be the responsibility of the federal government with the development of a national curriculum, and mathematics educators are looking forward to a rigorous curriculum framework that will keep Australia internationally competitive and improve standards amongst current lower-achieving groups.

The AAMT, alongside the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia (MERGA) and tertiary mathematicians, will make a significant contribution to the development of the national curriculum. Societies representing mathematics educators agree that all teachers of mathematics must understand the content they are teaching, how it is used in everyday contexts, and how best to teach it.

The AAMT standards point out that “Excellent teachers of mathematics have a sound, coherent knowledge of the mathematics appropriate to the student level they teach, and which is situated in their knowledge and understanding of the broader mathematics curriculum”. The standards also point out that mathematics teachers need to be confident and competent users of mathematics. Teacher educators and researchers welcome these directions.

Judith Mousley

President, MERGA.

Christopher Fraser, on 12 July, 2008 at 7:24 pm said:The use of the Standards for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics adopted by the AAMT in 2002, are the best framework to be able to support teachers in any Numeracy response across Australia.

They clearly articulate the need for all teachers to have appropriate qualifications for the teaching of Mathematics for the level they are teaching at.

Also they have as one of their Domains very clear expectations expressed on the knowledge teachers must have about students, student learning and Mathematics.

Such a framework must be adopted by government to be able to develop improved outcomes of numeracy across Australia. They indicate clearly that all teachers require appropriate knwoeldge of Mathematics for the levels they will encounter Mathematics in their classrooms and discplines.

That is every teacher.

The role of the Standards is not to define curriculum content, which is what Mr Donnelly suggests should be their role.

Again Kevin Donnelly has adopted the negative role in the debate.

areroom, on 31 July, 2008 at 11:24 pm said:Math…I love it.

Nice to see your blog.