The Australian reports today that there has been a significant surge (by 10-20 percent) in student applications for maths, science, and engineering courses in Australia this year, which is being attributed both to the significant reduction in HECS fees for these subjects and to increased social awareness among students as to the importance of these areas. Hopefully the universities will retain their capability to teach these subjects well to an increased number of students…
In a brief item for ABC news, Peter Taylor of the Australian Mathematics Trust notes declining enrolments in advanced mathematics in Australian schools and universities, and calls for an increased emphasis on problem-solving skills in maths classes in schools that go beyond the current curriculum.
Coincidentally, in the recent article “Is the sky still falling?” in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society, it was observed that maths enrollments in US colleges have grown modestly in the last ten years in absolute terms, but have declined substantially relative to total enrollments, possibly because in the US, enrollment in maths is tied to a large extent to enrollments in engineering, which has fluctuated quite a bit in recent years. (The study also recommends developing alternatives to the standard calculus courses as entry points to a maths program.)
[Thanks to Margaret Smith for the first link.]
Over at the Funneled Web, fellow contributor Peter Hall reports on the continued decline in the number of maths majors in Australian universities, and a related decline in the number of high school students taking advanced maths courses.
[Update, Dec 9: By coincidence, the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) on fourth and eighth grade mathematics ability was released today. According to the report, fourth grade achievement in Australian students has improved somewhat (just behind the United States, Germany, and Denmark, and just ahead of Hungary, Italy, and Australia), but eighth grade achievement has slipped (below Armenia, but above Sweden).]