Gazette Issue 1 (March) now online

The first issue of the Gazette in 2009 is now online at The Gazette wishes all our readers a very happy new year, and we hope 2009 brings Australian mathematics much health, wealth and happiness!

We would also like to warmly welcome our new president, Nalini Joshi. In her first President’s Column, Nalini gives us some insight into her experience as president so far, and some of the important issues on the current agenda for mathematics.

In Maths Matters we hear from the other side of the world, as Günter Ziegler looks back on his involvement with the government-sponsored German Year of Mathematics in 2008. Not only is it fascinating to hear his experience and the advice he has for promoters of mathematics, but it is also interesting to reflect on the opportunities such concrete government support for public engagement with science could give the mathematics community here in Australia. The Maths Year has obviously been a success in entertaining and enthusing the public, but whether the project has achieved its aim of changing perceptions and convincing them of the importance and relevance of maths may only become clear in the next few years. We are looking forward to an Australian Year of Mathematics!

We have reports from a number of meetings, including the Group Theory, Combinatorics and Computation conference in January in Perth which celebrated Cheryl Praeger’s 60th birthday. Bill Blyth continues his Access Grid column and in particular gives practical advice for electronically writing mathematics using this technology, and Larry Forbes gives advice on pointing directions in Tasmania. The AustMS news contains several important notices, including calls for nominations of the AustMS Medal, and also nominations for society officers and ordinary members of the Council that will be decided at the annual conference in September.

And of course, the issue includes Norman Do’s Puzzle Corner, book reviews and news from across Australian mathematics. We would like to thank Phil Broadbridge for his regular AMSI contributions, and wish him all the best in his new role at La Trobe University.

We are very pleased to publish a number of brief technical notes in this issue commenting on papers previously published in the Gazette. It is very encouraging that papers published here have stimulated interest, and we hope that technical articles from 2009 will continue to do so. If you or your students have an idea for a mathematical article that is of general interest to all mathematicians, please consider submitting it to the Gazette. Happy reading from the Gazette team.

Maths in crisis as teachers go private

The acute shortage of trained maths teachers is finally beginning to get some attention in the national media, thanks in part to the NCMS strategy paper mentioned in the previous post.  From today’s Australian:

ADVANCED mathematics is disappearing from public school classrooms, leaving students able to learn only basic maths, because the few qualified teachers are being snapped up by the private sector.

The shortage of maths teachers will become more acute as fewer students continue maths at university, undermining the nation’s skills base in engineering, the sciences and technology, scientists warn.

“The inequitable access to quality mathematics education is a national disgrace,” the National Committee for the Mathematical Sciences says in a report calling for a national strategy to boost the discipline.

An estimated 40 per cent of senior school mathematics teachers do not have a maths major, the minimum needed to teach the subject to senior years, the committee believes. That is up from 30 per cent in 1999.

There is a lively discussion by readers following the article.

See also an opinion piece by Justine Ferrari today in the Australian entitled “Subject of shame: we suck at sums“, and a recent article by former mathematics lecturer Marty Ross in the Melbourne Age, entitled “Summing up a failure“.

A national strategy for mathematics in Australia

The Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute has just placed on its web site a strategy paper entitled “A national strategy for mathematics in Australia” to combat the shortages of maths graduates and teachers in Australia, authored by Hyam Rubinstein (chair of the National Committee for the Mathematical Sciences).  The paper has a number of specific recommendations for the federal government on this issue, in particular suggesting a number of inducements to increase the pool of available and qualified maths teachers, and to leverage AMSI’s existing expertise and resources in this area.

[Thanks to Jan Thomas for the link. See also the article “Support of Australian maths a growing imperative” at the Funneled Web.]

No maths for top kids

In a recent article for the Sunday Telegraph entitled “No maths for top kids”,  Miawling Lam writes on how the acute shortage of trained maths high school teachers is seriously impacting the ability of mathematically advanced students to get a quality education in the subject.

The president of the Australian Mathematical Society, Nalini Joshi, sent out a message to all members of the AustMS regarding this article:

Dear AustMS Members,

The attached article appeared in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday on
01 March 2009. I have been advised that it is now time for all of us
concerned about mathematics education to write to our local Members of

A simple email will do and the following are two possible model letters:
“Dear X, I saw the attached article in the weekend paper. Can you please
tell me what steps the government is taking to deal with this? Yours
sincerely, Y.”
“Dear X, I am very worried about what will happen to our school kids’
education when there are no more mathematics teachers. See attached
article.  What will the government do to solve this problem? Sincerely, Y.”
For those not in NSW who wouldn’t get the Sunday Telegraph normally, you
could try another model:
“Dear X, A friend sent me the attached article from the Sunday Telegraph.
This is a national problem! What steps is the government taking to deal with
this? Hoping to hear from you, Y.”

The email addresses of federal members of parliament can be found at

Links to state MP’s emails are at or obtainable through:
South Australia
Western Australia

Kind regards