Introduction


Strengthening the focus on mathematics in our education system is about preparing young people for life and work in the 21st century.
Sarah Mitchell, Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning, October 2020

The NSW Mathematics Strategy supports teaching and learning in NSW public schools, helping students develop the mathematical skills and understanding they need to succeed in life.

Mathematics plays a critical role in a student’s education. As established in a paper by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD):

“Proficiency in mathematics is a strong predictor of positive outcomes for young adults, influencing their ability to participate in post-secondary education and their expected future earnings.”¹

To help grow students’ proficiency in mathematics, it is necessary to foster positive attitudes towards mathematics, which are shown to be a key factor in students’ achievement.² Research has found that student confidence, feelings of success, and perceived relevancy of learning experiences are influential factors in student engagement.³ Research evidence like this has informed the observation that:

“Not only do teachers and government need to convey the usefulness of mathematics generally through the curriculum, but they also need to make sure it is experienced as useful in the classroom.”⁴

Learning of mathematics “depends fundamentally on what happens inside the classroom as teachers and learners interact over the curriculum”.⁵ As such, the skilful teaching of mathematics requires specialised skills, knowledge and understanding. Evidence suggests that coherent system support and ongoing professional learning for teachers and leaders are key factors in supporting the skilful and equitable teaching of mathematics at scale.⁶

The strategy aims to:

  • strengthen mathematics teaching in NSW public schools. This will be achieved by:
    • providing evidence-based professional learning to support quality teaching of mathematics Kindergarten to Year 12
    • enriching expertise in mathematics teaching among primary teachers
    • providing mentorship for secondary teachers
    • providing access to high-quality teaching resources for teachers of mathematics.
  • enable NSW public students to experience high-quality mathematical experiences and develop an understanding of the usefulness of mathematics. This includes opportunities for students to consider, apply and develop mathematical skills in ways that reinforce the everyday, lifelong usefulness of mathematical thinking.
  • build and nurture positive perceptions of mathematics in the broader community. This would include supporting parents and carers to feel more confident in talking with their child about mathematics.

The NSW Department of Education recognises that consultation and collaboration with various stakeholders – such as students, teachers, school leaders, parents and carers, academic partners, professional organisations, the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA), and other partners – is critical to the successful implementation of the strategy.

  1. OECD, ‘PISA 2012 Results in Focus: What 15-year-olds know and what they can do with what they know’, 2014, accessed [13 October 2020].
  2. L Chen, SR Bae, C Battista, S Qin, T Chen, TM Evans, and V Menon, ‘Positive Attitude Toward Math Supports Early Academic Success: Behavioral Evidence and Neurocognitive Mechanisms’, Psychological Science, 2018; J Bobis, J Anderson, A Martin and J Way, ‘A Model for Mathematics Instruction to Enhance Student Motivation and Engagement’, Motivation and Disposition: Pathways to Learning Mathematics, (2011).; CS Dweck Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, New York: Ballantine Books, 2006.
  3. G Munns, W Sawyer and B Cole (Eds.), Exemplary Teachers of Students in Poverty, Routledge, 2013.
  4. M Brown, P Brown and T Bibby, ‘“I would rather die”: Reasons given by 16-year-olds for not continuing their study of mathematics’, Research in Mathematics Education, March 2008.
  5. D Ball and F Forzani, ‘Teaching Skillful Teaching’, Educational Leadership, December 2010/January 2011.
  6. P Cobb, K Jackson, E Henrick and TM Smith, Systems for Instructional Improvement: Creating Coherence from the Classroom to the District Office, Harvard Education Press, 2018.

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