Mathematics as a subject has often been given a bad rap. In a world where even the word ‘mathematics’ causes some people to break into a sweat, there are too many people who think—incorrectly—that they just don’t have any natural ability to do maths.
During the holidays I read an article about the ‘Numbers Man’, Geordie Williamson, one of Australia’s top mathematicians, who said this: “You couldn’t get away with saying ‘I hated English in school’, and walk away from it but people do it all the time with maths.”
Geordie Williamson challenges people to rethink the subject. Comparing achievement in maths to sport, he argues: “With sport, in Australia, there’s an understanding that it takes years of training and toil to get to the very top level... but there’s this general perception that a so called ‘genius’ or a great artist simply waves their hands and the magic happens.”
If you accept that all children are capable of learning then all children are capable of understanding mathematics. Simply put, repeated practice in mathematics will bring a deep understanding of seemingly complex mathematical concepts, just as repeated practice in sport and the arts will bring about spectacular results.
"I would argue that mathematics helps us make sense of our world. It helps us develop pattern recognition, logical thinking, problem solving and communication. These are all skills that are necessary in the modern world." (James Pietsch, 2018)
Maths is good for life
At the most practical level, mathematics provides students with everyday skills that will prove useful later in life. Maths helps at the supermarket, or when you're ready to buy your first car. Yes, maths can help us make better financial decisions to support the lifestyle we desire.
But to be fair, mathematics is so much more than that! Mathematics is a discipline with unique qualities which gives students a far greater capacity to understand and marvel at the world around them. As a student, I enjoyed learning in every subject but mathematics was my favourite. Why? I was fortunate to have two maths teachers who conveyed to me their passion for the subject. They took me beyond the curriculum and helped me understand the creative side of mathematics. That's right, the creative side!
A new international standard
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a worldwide study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in member and non-member nations intended to evaluate educational systems by measuring 15-year-old school pupils' scholastic performance on mathematics, science, and reading.
NAC students who are 15 years of age will receive information regarding participation in these tests.
Whilst NAC’s participation in the PISA tests is not compulsory, we are looking forward to being involved in this international project. The results we achieve in the PISA tests will provide valuable insights into the areas where we can improve and develop our programmes here at Nowra Anglican College in relation to other OECD nations.