Lucas Heights Community School's take on NSW government plan to make maths compulsory

The numbers game: The NSW government wants a "back to basics" approach to prioritise maths from 2020. Head of maths of Lucas Heights Community School, Daniel Conlan, is pictured with students Daniel, Mia, Aidan and Aylaexis. Picture: John Veage
The numbers game: The NSW government wants a "back to basics" approach to prioritise maths from 2020. Head of maths of Lucas Heights Community School, Daniel Conlan, is pictured with students Daniel, Mia, Aidan and Aylaexis. Picture: John Veage

Teachers have spoken out in support of the NSW government's plan to re-mould the mathematics curriculum from 2020, but have some reservations about its benefit to all students.

Maths will be compulsor from Kindergarten to year 12 in the revised curriculum, in what is described as the biggest shake-up to guidelines in more than 30 years.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the government wants to build up numeracy skills for young people to succeed so they are better prepared for jobs of the future, particularly across science, technology and engineering.

"Students need to have strong foundations in maths, English and science to be prepared for attaining life-long skills," Ms Berejiklian said.

The government will begin consultation with education stakeholders over how maths can be incorporated into every single year of a child's educational journey.

Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell says the idea is to provide students with the academic foundations and critical thinking to thrive in a competitive, globalised workforce.

"Whether you are a carpenter or a software engineer, maths is a companion for life," she said.

"Parents have a reasonable expectation that their children are mathematically literate when they finish school in year 12.

"The interim report on the Curriculum Review has indicated that it is time for significant changes and we want maths to be a part of that.

" We want a curriculum that leaves no student behind while stimulating students who are advancing faster than others."

Lucas Heights Community School's head of mathematics, Shaun Conlan, says next year indeed sees a change in the subject selection process that schools have traditionally had, but that most students at the school had actually already chosen to study maths in 2020.

He says the government needs to consider wider ramifications, as it starts to "lock students" into a pattern of study that may not benefit all.

"It's great that the government has a plan for the future however part of that plan must be to fix the huge shortage of qualified mathematics teachers," he said.

"The question that must be asked is what needs to change with the current system to encourage students to study a mathematics teaching degree."

Mr Conlan says there has been a drop in the number of students studying mathematics for their HSC across the year.

"This has definitely had a roll on affect for students then studying mathematics and STEM based courses at university," he said.

"As our advances in technology continue so grow, so to is the need to have qualified people. Technology provides a tool for making the teaching of some mathematical concepts easier to to teach and opportunities to engage students in other ways.

"To be numerate means using mathematics to make sense of the world around you. Deciphering bills, phone plans, bank statements, interpreting graphs and timetables, household budgets, home improvement and even cooking the evening dinner requires some level of understanding of mathematics. Mathematics is so ingrained in day to day activities that we don't even think of the mathematics underlying those activities."

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