Submissions on ACARA’s draft mathematics curriculum close next week, on July 8, And, note, you do *not* have to use ACARA’s sheep-herding submission form. You can *email* your comments to ACARA, via the yellow “Email submissions and comments” button, near the bottom of ACARA’s consultation page. (We could include the email link here, but somehow that feels incorrect.)

Should you submit something? Yes, you should, for the same reason that you should vote against ScoMoFo in the next election. The point isn’t that your action is likely to change anything; the point is that it feels good. So, if it feels good to simply submit the open letter, then do that. But you should submit something.

Not convinced? Then maybe the following will help convince you. ACARA’s consultation page encourages feedback with the following line:

**The online survey includes open fields to allow you to provide general comments about what you think we have improved and what you think needs further improvement.**

So, either 1) what they’ve improved, or 2) what needs further improvement. On the off chance you believe something might fall into a third category, perhaps you might want to let ACARA know about it.

Yes I’ll send them something. I’m still ruminating on it though. Possibly it won’t be very long, and I’ll link to the letter as well.

I will send a message to ACARA for the same reason I will not vote for the ALP or Greens.

The problems we have in education will be will grow further with those parties.

Mate:

1. Marty didn’t say anything about the ALP or the Greens. Why did you bring them up?

2. If you think the LNP and in particular Scomo are strong on education, I’d encourage you to look closely at why you think this, and possibly also think about what education is.

Cheers

I will not take advice from you, Glen, when delivered in an arrogant voice.

The ALP and Greens are a disaster with curriculum design.

Our problems today are the past solutions from them.

Dear Mr. Anonymous. Strong opinions are permitted and encouraged here. You voiced a strong, and pretty tangential, opinion, and you received a strong opinion back. That’s the way it works.

I’ll restate my point.

The ALP and Greens are hopeless on education.

Fine and, which, as Glen pointed out, had nothing to do with what I wrote. So, you want a fight? Fine by me. If Glen wants to fight with you, go for it. Just don’t pick a fight and play innocent.

Hi Marty

It is now picking a fight; giant leap here.

Read your articles and see your anti Morrison/Liberal comments.

One reply in the opposite sure gets up your gander.

Sigh. A tangent to a tangent to a tangent, but what the hell.

John, my gander isn’t up. I thought your initial comment was off-topic and deliberately provocative, but I’m fine with that. You happened to provoke Glen and he responded. Have fun.

Yes, I slip in whacks of that conman ScoMoFo and his band of sadists and crooks and halfwits whenever the mood takes me, which is about once an hour. I loathe the motherfuckers. It’s my blog and if people want to stick around here they have to accept that I’ll write what I write the way I write. And I’m very tolerant of people bashing back. Even anonymously, as you have done.

As it happens, I may well agree with you more than Glen on education. I think the “left” has probably done way more damage than the “right” in the recent decades. And, although I think Tudge will in the end screw it up, I think on education he is genuinely trying to do good. But I’m not going to argue the point here. Glen can if he wishes.

However.

If you don’t want to vote Labor or Greens because you don’t like their education policies, then fine. But “Labor/Green education sucks” as some kind of minimiser of the systemic awfulness of ScoMoFo and his henchmen is pretty dumb.

Prepare for more arrogance: you made the same mistake as “John” did in his initial comments. Practice reading comprehension. I didn’t say that the ALP and Greens are not a disaster on curriculum design.

John, you may be correct, but it’s off the point. That asshole Tudge may indeed do some good, if he can find his way out of the car park, and Labor and the Greens haven’t been educational heroes. But ScoMoFo is a bona fide menace.

In any case, the main point is to participate, in voting or submitting to ACARA, because it feels good.

The problems we have in education will be will grow further with the ALP and Greens

I will not take advice from you, Glen, when delivered in an arrogant voice.

The ALP and Greens are a disaster with curriculum design.

Our problems today are the past solutions from them.

John, I’m just curious, do you ever take advice when it is delivered in a non-arrogant voice? Perhaps you do, in which case it’d be nice to see some evidence of it.

This will probably seem condescending: Good observation, I couldn’t agree more.

My point making has been successful.

“As it happens, I may well agree with you more than Glen on education. I think the “left” has probably done way more damage than the “right” in the recent decades. And, although I think Tudge will in the end screw it up, I think on education he is genuinely trying to do good. But I’m not going to argue the point here. Glen can if he wishes.”

Yep, you won, John. Congratulations.

Hi John.

If you want to point out things I disagree with Marty on, have fun. There are many.

This however is hardly even a molehill. Let me try to find something in it though, since you seem to be fixated.

I suppose you’re the “anonymous” person above. Please take my suggestion to work on your reading comprehension to heart, I think you need it. I did not say that the “left” have done well in education. Marty didn’t say that I did either, he simply states his own opinion and then a guess “…may well agree with you more than Glen on education.”. Marty may not recall me giving an opinion either way on that question. This would make sense, because I haven’t given one.

I’m not shy about it — the simple truth of the matter is that it hasn’t come up. It’s not a big deal. My view is that the curriculum has been on a downward spiral for a long time and all of the parties suffer from the same disease. They are all awful on primary and secondary education.

Yes, I think they are equally shit on primary and secondary. Both parties have had ample opportunity to fix the curriculum, and both aren’t. It isn’t a talking point for the opposition and the coalition has been in power and are not fixing anything. I don’t have any confidence at all in Tudge. Further, we have a new draft curriculum that looks to be the worst thing yet. Has anyone federally condemned the draft curriculum as damaging nonsense? If not, then I don’t see how anyone can give the coalition a better score than an F on primary and secondary. I’m not sure what Marty means by the “left”, but if he means that somehow the ALP (or Greens) are more of a fuckup than the LNP on primary and tertiary, that is something (another thing) that we disagree on.

Now, mind you, Labor and the Greens are substantially better than the coalition in tertiary education. So favouring Labor or the Greens it seems like an obvious choice if education is your main concern, unless for some weird reason you don’t like tertiary education.

John, I’m not sure what you think you’re doing, or have done, since you claim to have been successful. Perhaps derail the comment section of this blog post and waste time on something essentially irrelevant? I can agree with that.

Gidday Glen

Your good on the cheap shots

“Let me try to find something in it though, since you seem to be fixated…….

I suppose you’re the “anonymous” person above. Please take my suggestion to work on your reading comprehension to heart, I think you need it……..

unless for some weird reason you don’t like tertiary education……..

John, I’m not sure what you think you’re doing, or have done, since you claim to have been successful. Perhaps derail the comment section of this blog post and waste time on something essentially irrelevant? I can agree with that.

In your world, Glen the only comments worth having are yours’. Other comments are from the uninformed (“essentially irrelevant”) and need your gratuitous advice.

Hello Folks

My submission tried to be diplomatic – I deleted a comment about a cabal of non-mathematicians gaining control of the syllabuses. Anyway – here it is

——-

Let me first describe myself. I spent some years mainly teaching mathematics in what we would now call Years 11 and 12. I then spent some decades teaching maths at tertiary level, largely to actual users – engineering students and students of business studies. More recently I am busy with tutoring primary school mathematics – homework clubs and the like.

Yes we have a serious problem. In my last few years teaching at universities I found myself teaching things I had taught decades earlier in Years 11 and 12. And even that became difficult as some students were unable to perform Year 8 algebra. A significant proportion of students saw mathematics as just taking the formula for the problem, which had to be supplied, and then plugging the numbers into that formula in their calculator – often getting a wildly wrong answer that they did not recognise as wrong.

You are probably nodding wisely and thinking yes, this is because teachers do not allow enough exploration in classes. But curiously, the sudden drop in understanding started at about the same time as the modern emphasis on “exploration”.

What can we agree on? I think we would both denigrate a teacher just laid down the law – “this is called division and this is how you do it”. Even very young students want to see where new ideas come from and why they are important – part of that nebulous concept of “understanding”. I assume that this is what the syllabus means when it says “exploration”. As a teacher my highlights are when I can nudge a conversation so that the students will themselves find the new idea or new method. But even those students may forget it weeks later unless they get enough reinforcement.

So yes, we should ensure that mathematics makes sense; we should spend time making it relevant to the life of the student; we should explore the ideas of mathematics in their historical context, we should make mathematics fun with games and stories. But don’t ignore the other leg of education – practice, repetition, memory, fluency and facility.

I see this clearly with my current primary school charges. The youngest see addition as an extension of counting and with a lot of practice they get fluent at adding small numbers. Then they start multiplication as repeated addition and get quite good at that. But most are then stuck at that level; the later developments – division, and multiplication of larger numbers require instant knowledge of the multiplication tables. A few lucky ones have been taught their times tables by their parents and these ones are confidently advancing. Sorry to have to tell you, but rote learning is necessary – and fun if done well. That’s why it is ubiquitous in time and in cultures – all except one poor modern self-destructive one.

Tom

Thanks, Tom. Why delete the first line? As long as the cabal has total control, what do you expect to happen? Your submission hammers an important point, but how do you imagine things will be fixed?

It is not the cabal that this is aimed at. Rather the teachers who see something positive in the vague verbiage of the draft syllabus.

But this was a submission to the cabal.

That’s the point, isn’t it? Hard to figure out exactly what I want to say in written form to them.

How about

“Dear ACARA, you screwed up. Please withdraw the draft and try again, next time with proper consultation from mathematicians who are, in particular, not captured by a hyper-constructivist ideology. Love, Glen.”

It’s that “Love, Glen” part that I’m not sure I can sell…

Seriously though, you *almost* worked out my actual first draft, which looks like this:

Dear ACARA,

Your draft curriculum is sloppy and incorrect in many places. You need to go way back to the drawing board and start from scratch. I recommend that you consult with mathematicians and mathematics teachers who actually have a long record of service to the profession of mathematics teaching when doing so.

Best,

Glen

I’m thinking of writing a longer one though. Problem is, what do they care about students actually learning and enjoying mathematics? It’s like speaking a foreign language to them.

The substantive arguments are in a foreign language. The potential weight of negative submissions would not be.

Marty, I bow to your experience in these matters. I was hoping that the ACARA authors were practicing teachers in thrall to the ideology of Education Faculty bigshots – and maybe they could be persuaded.

BTW it appears that all subject developers, not just mathematics, have been instructed to include material on our aboriginal culture – hence the hilarious attempts in the mathematics draft. Australian aboriginal mathematics culture only gets mention in the world stage in the claim that some tribes had no names for numbers past two: “one, two, many”. I don’t know whether this is true, or just some locals have fun at the expense of an ethnologist. I reckon our “first nation peoples” would be offended if this was mentioned in the syllabus. It does seem at odds with the belief that tribal languages in general have much more complicated grammar than those of settled agriculturalists.

Tom, Tom, Tom. Education faculty big shots are the leaders of this cult. Where do you think the teachers get this nonsense?

As for the Aboriginal stuff, it is obviously laid on thick, and plenty of it looks very silly. I definitely think it should be properly critiqued, and it’s on my (long) list. However, the Aboriginal elaborations are largely ignorable, whereas the inquiry and the dearth of mathematics is not. For me, and the main game, it is a distraction.

Mike Deakin wrote a very good article on Aboriginal and Islander mathematics for the Gazette, as the current curriculum was taking shape.

>For me, and the main game, it is a distraction.

My thoughts also. But I thought it worth a BTW.

Gidday Tom,

I’m a primary school teacher and my experience is the same as yours.

I predominantly teach, allow the students to practice, correct, reflect and revise. I involve problem solving after the skills have reached a level where the cognitive load is not crushing. Problem solving is seriously important. My annoyance of the use of it is when it is introduced.

Primary students can learn to talk and listen with natural immersion; biologically primary.

Writing and reading are biologically secondary and so is Mathematics, these need teaching for students to learn.

The language and Mathematics wars are very similar along the biologically primary and secondary learning models.

Nice to meet you, even if remotely, John. Do your students learn their times tables? Marty says that such things are considered cruelty by the puppet masters. And have you made a submission? Still time …

Hi Tom,

I teach Mathematics for students in grades 2 and 3 who need support, as well as students in grades 4, , 5 and 6 who are high achievers.

I teach counting with the students first and in this order: 1, 2, 10, 3, 5 ,4, 6 ,7, 8, 9.

Here is an overview. I have them count by reading out aloud from the board, saying them from memory and have an activity that represents it eg use counters or symbolism ** **** ****** ******** or ** , ** + ** , ** + ** + **

No more than 10 minutes a day.

Then I move onto reciting the tables (controversy here, I’m dictated to refer the times tables as multiplication facts, which I deliberately ignore) using sight, memory and activity.

It takes time and it works. The satisfaction the students have on their faces when they have developed these once impossible skills is rewarding for both teacher and student.

The fog lifts on their Mathematics and they have also learnt a valuable lesson on why structured practice works. Counting and times tables must be mastered in the early years. Most of the problems in middle and upper primary Mathematics can be traced back to poor counting and times tables skills. Sounds to simple, however for the pushers of student centered practices, inquiry learning, problem solving etc this will disadvantage the students; they are delusional.

Cheers

John

Lovely

“structured practice” eh. We need a campaign to get this into the syllabus. Starting with a submission to ACARA – due today? This letter you have written works fine as a submission. The last para is great and reinforces my experience.

And yes when times tables (multiplication facts) are left too late the students may find the repetition childish.

If these ACARA folk were making a dictionary, a spade would be defined as “a tool for exploration of soil transfer, with and without technology”.

Thanks, John. This all sounds incredibly sane. I have two questions.

1) In which year do you expect the proper mastery/memorisation of which tables, and do you go up to 12? (And if not, why not?)

2) Who demands you refer to the tables as “multiplication facts”, and does it matter. I loathe the offical expression, and the importance of genuinely teaching the tables, the facts as connected facts, is obvious. But apart from being stupid, does the label matter? Or, do you think the label in the classroom also matters?

Gidday Marty,

The majority of students with continuous practice should have mastered the times tables by the end of year 3. If millions of overseas students can reach this level so can Australian students.

I teach up to 10’s. Why? The Vic Curric requires you, up to the 10’s.

I do however teach and have students regularly use partition,eg 12 x 6 = 10 x 6 + 2 x 6 =72.

I also regularly have the students practice index notation, multiples, factors and simplifying fractions.

The leading teacher in Numeracy puts pressure on teachers to use ‘multiplication facts’.

I believe she gets this from her readings and memberships of Mathematics’ associations. She likes to use Prof Peter Sullivan from Monash University as a reference for many of her statements. She is a strong supporter of problem solving as the learning method.

At our school we use this instructional model: number fluency(10 minutes), WALT and SC(5 min), explicit instruction(10 min), activity( 30 min) and reflection(5 min).

I am very happy with this model as it involves a range of practices that Hattie has published that have a high effect size.

However when I read the teachers’ work programs (grades 2 to 6) they are predominantly problem solving and are not following the instructional model.

My concern with being only able to use the term multiplication facts is that it is used as an abuse/controller of power and there is no advantage gained from changing it.

Thanks, John.

So you teach tables up to 10 by the end of year 3? I agree that can be done, and easily, but it is also not fully in the curriculum until Year 4. So, does your Sullivan-loving “numeracy” leader then object? And, if you are willing to go beyond the curriculum, why not go up to 12, at some year level? The benefits are pretty obvious.

I’m also puzzled. I won’t comment here on the benefits of imposing an instructional model, or the benefits of your school’s model. But how do your teachers get away with ignoring it? If you get nagged at for “multiplication tables”, how are teachers permitted to screw up in such a systemic manner? Sure, if your problem-loving Sullivan-loving “numeracy” leader want problem-solving, that’s a force to counter. But, for better or worse, a mandated model is a mandated model.

Finally, do your problem-loving co-teachers ever comment on the fact that your kids are actually learning something?

She gets away with it because she is the numeracy leader.

The NL, sits in planning lessons with the teachers every second week. She influences the teachers to an extent they go along with her. The other week which she does not attend she reads their planning and makes comments. I plan my own lessons using the instructional model and send her my planning. She makes comments which I decide to include or ignore. This year from the second planning WP I have not sent her my planning but loaded it on the school’s system. I became incensed with some of her comments from my first planning WP, as I believed that they were deleterious to the students’ learning.

I have had some younger teachers say to me that they heard I get good Maths’ results. They use problem solving, open ended questions and allow the students to choose their own strategies to solve the problems. My answer to them is come and observe my lessons; see lesson format in

earlier correspondence.

I do in fact get good results. Our school has an external assessment called PAT and my results are always above level. I have also seen another teacher achieve above results and she also uses direct instruction predominantly and revises, revises and revises with multiple exposures. Her students say Maths is their favorite subject.

My approach to Maths education is well known throughout the school and I keep chipping away at exposing the dangers of problem solving as way to develop Maths skills.

Cheers John

Thanks again, John. Why chip rather than hammer? Why not go to the Principal, point out the PAT results, point out your and your colleague’s deserved reputation, and politely conjecture that the school’s problem-loving, Sullivan-loving “numeracy” leader might be a dangerous nitwit?

(And be sure to buy my upcoming book: How to Make Enemies and Influence People.)

You also didn’t answer about all the tables in Year 3, and not going up to 12. I’m not criticising: I’m genuinely questioning someone who seems roughly on the same (and correct) page with the teaching of primary mathematics.

Thanks Marty

I have been speaking with and sending articles for about 4 years to my principal on the direct instruction and problem solving methods. She agrees with direct instruction but is open to problem solving in the activity.

I have not been direct enough with her regarding what is actually happening.

The principal would be aware of the PAT results as most teachers are.

The NL has not been given an extension class in 2021; I teach all three which is a change from previous years in that it was shared between the two of us. Maybe a hammer is needed now.

Tables up to 12’s. I use partition after the 10’s. I came to this decision that partition was a better strategy. What is your position on this? I have taught an overseas student who knew the times tables up to 20.; he was taught them by his mother who was an university physics lecturer.

I googled you and found that coincidentally you are at Monash as in Sullivan. Do you cross paths?

Cheers

John

Thanks, John. With tables to 12, it seems obvious to me. Then you have 60 and 72 and 120, etc, and their factors, which gives a lot more flexibility for composing exercises, plus speed for the kid. Plus it seems entirely natural for fractions of time and, eventually, the 360 degrees in a circle. Very little extra effort for a very big gain.

After 12, the argument quickly gets weaker because of all the prime-ish numbers: 13, 14, 17, 19. In the early 18th century, at least for a little while in some Australian schools, tables up to 20 was standard.

Sullivan and I have crossed swords more than paths.

Marty,

I agree with the explanation up to 12.

Sullivan needs to come back into the classroom for at least one term in a low socio-economic school

to the see the damage that problem solving by itself does.

Cheers

John

Thanks, John. By way of contrast, I’d be quite happy if Sullivan never went near a school ever again.