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“.

3 Responses

  1. There is really no hope whatsoever for the school maths education. Even in universities it is all to easy to get a degree without ever really understanding what’s going on, relying solely on syntactic manipulation (this is because there are no decent courses until 3rd year and even those are avoided by the majority).

    Teacher training is a completely lost cause – it is funny to read the comments by people who have been working in unrelated fields for many years about how they would make great maths teachers – they are very unlikely to have much of an idea themselves. The only solution is to involve people who are aware of maths research, like phd students, postdocs, lecturers etc. and get the universities to run courses for school students, like this one:

    It is also important to get the participating students exempt from the nonsensical standard curriculum (like HSC) and offer them direct admission with advanced standing. All of this can be done with absolutely minimal cost just a few driven individuals would suffice.

  2. Maths-Physics teacher shortage? How come I have not got the job? I rate myself as top 5% VCE maths – physics teacher. Sometimes, the principals from state schools insult to the applicants by calling the candidates and said their favorite teacher is more qualified than us. How does this stupid know about this? Most VCE maths teachers they employed know very basic level of CAS calculators.

    I challenged those those principals and anyone who involved in this employment that I am ready to prove that I am top 5% quality teacher who is unemployed. This system is something wrong. Our children are suffering and government is spending money on them and those cronies are accumulating the wealth.

    It is about time to assess the qualities of the teachers for the employment if the responsible people are honest and sincere purely for the sake of our new generation.

  3. I would like to see qualified maths tutors willing to help kids of all school grade levels in every community of more than 15,000 in Australia within four years – to teach kids the joys of mathematics, and to truly make Australia the clever country.

    I am setting up an organisation with precisely these aims. If you would like more details, please email me at


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