[ASC-media] Australian schools face critical shortage of maths teachers

Jenni Metcalfe jenni at econnect.com.au
Wed Jan 15 15:57:10 EST 2003

Australian high schools face a critical shortage of qualified maths
teachers, according to President of the Australian Association of
Mathematics Teachers, Steve Thornton.

Speaking at the AAMT conference in Brisbane, Mr Thornton said graduates from
university mathematics were the second highest paid university graduates in

"However, they are moving into professions that pay well for their skills
such as IT, project management, engineering, actuary work, etc. They are not
choosing teaching as an option. The number of students studying maths
teaching has dropped enormously in the past 15 years."

Mr Thornton said the situation was currently so dire that in many high
schools any teachers with maths qualifications were just teaching years 11
and 12, and other teachers were being asked to teach junior maths.

"There are many junior high school classes where there are no teachers with
mathematics qualifications," he said. "This means teachers without maths
qualifications are teaching junior maths and relying on the textbooks to do

"This makes it very hard for teachers to enthuse their students about maths.
The problem is further compounded by the image of maths in society. It's
socially acceptable to say you can't do maths, but it's not socially
acceptable to say you can't read."

Mr Thornton believes that in today's society of numbers, graphs and
statistics that it is just as important to be maths literate.

"People today need the capacity to look behind and understand the figures
that are presented to them in the media and on computers."

Mr Thornton said it was critical for Australian governments to look for long
term solutions to the maths teaching problem.

"Given that most technological innovations today rely on sophisticated
mathematical applications, this is a big issue for the future of Australia's
economy," he said.

Mr Thornton said while there was no easy solution, governments needed to
consider providing better teaching conditions to attract and retain maths
graduates to the profession.

"It should also look at reducing the HECS currently applicable to maths and
science students to the same level paid by humanities students; and to
provide incentives for maths graduates to become teachers"

For interview: Steve Thornton, phone 0403 160 157

 For media assistance: Jenni Metcalfe, phone 0408 551 866,
jenni at econnect.com.au

 Website on conference: http://www.aamt.edu.au/2003

Jennifer Metcalfe
Econnect Communication Pty Ltd
phones: 07 3846 7111; 040 855 1866 (mob)
email: jenni at econnect.com.au
fax: 07 3846 7144
mail address: PO Box 734 South Brisbane BC 4101
street address: 14 Horan St West End 4101

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