Australian Students are Falling Further Behind in Maths and Science

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Algebra Problems

Algebra Problems

Take a moment to look at the equations in the picture.
Do they seem right? …

BOTH THESE EQUATIONS ARE INCORRECT but most Australian High School students – even in Year 12 – would not notice because they are weak in algebra, the language of Maths.

The 2015 international study (TIMSS) of Maths and Science standards has found that Australia has now fallen behind countries such as Kazakhstan since previous study in 2011. In those four years, Australia has:

  • fallen from 18th to 28th on Year 4 mathematics
  • fallen from 12th to 17th for Year 8 maths
  • fallen from 12th to 17th for Year 8 science

You can try some of the Year 4 and Year 8 test questions here: Are you smarter than a fourth grader – from Kazakhstan?
By the way, the first equation is equal to x, not 1. The second equation is equal to infinity (which is not defined as a number in school-level Maths). Try typing 3 divided by 0 into your calculator it will return an error message.

Australia, UK and USA Are Way Behind Advanced Asian Countries in Mathematics Achievement

In Australia during the years 2010-2011, 66% of migrants were admitted under the Skilled Migration Scheme.
Technologically advanced countries like Australia, UK and the USA need to import so many highly skilled migrantsWhy is it that technologically advanced countries like Australia, UK and the USA need to import so many highly skilled migrants when many of the people already living in those countries do not have a job?
The answer is simple, the standards of Maths and Science in the schools are so low that not enough of the children in advanced countries have the skills needed to pursue technological careers.

The 2007 TIMSS International Study of Achievement in School Mathematics researched Mathematics achievement around the world. The average score on the Maths test for Grade 8 was 500 but Australia students only averaged 496, below that of the US and the UK. These English-speaking countries were way below Japan at 570, Hong Kong at 572, Singapore at 593, South Korea. Chinese Taipai had the best results with an average of 598.

Similar results were obtained for Mathematics achievement in Year 4. Results for Science achievement in Australia were similarly disappointing.

The US Government’s National Mathematics Advisory Panel considers mathematics education needs a major overhaul (Australian student performance in Mathematics is below that of the USA)

In 2008, a major study by the US National Mathematics Advisory Panel considered the US results showed that their Mathematics education system ‘is broken and must be fixed’. This is what their report had to say in detail:
“This Panel, diverse in experience, expertise, and philosophy, agrees broadly that the delivery system in mathematics education—the system that translates mathematical knowledge into value and ability for the next generation—is broken and must be fixed. This is not a conclusion about any single element of the system. It is about how the many parts do not now work together to achieve a result worthy of this country’s values and ambitions.” (Principal Messages, page xiii)

Teaching Methods Are to Blame for Poor Results

Educators have been aware of the problems with Mathematics Education for many decades and so have tried a series of different approaches in the schools:

  1. New Maths (with a focus on understanding through set theory),
  2. Back-to-Basics (a return to rote learning of number facts),
  3. Problem Solving (with an emphasis on application and reasoning),
  4. Constructivism (where the teacher does less teaching and encourages the students to work the Maths facts out for themselves).

I hear you asking: ‘What is the result of all these experiments?’

The answer is: There has been a steady decline in the number of students studying advanced Maths at Year 12 level, year after year.

Our Approach to Tutoring Students in Mathematics

Here at High Performance Learning we provide tutoring which teaches our students how to excel in Maths. We don’t just focus on going over homework problems, we have a broader approach that helps students:

  • learn the language of Maths,
  • learn how to do efficient setting out,
  • get deep understanding (rather than just remembering patterns),
  • master skills at one level before going to the next one,
  • develop strategies for long-term memory in Maths.

If you look through your child’s Maths textbook you will see little or no mention of these things. If your child’s Maths teacher is using these techniques effectively then all the children in the class would be getting high marks.

To find out how you can access our Maths Programs and tutoring contact us by email here or phone us (08) 8370 0110.

Chris Brooks
High Performance Learning

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