The debate as to whether maths should become compulsory in Year 12 has resurfaced and Wagga mathematics enthusiasts argue the subject should become mandatory.
In their submission of issues raised in the state curriculum review, NSW high school principals from the Secondary Principals’ Council argued that mathematics should remain as an elective subject in the final school year.
President of the NSW’s SPC Chris Presland argued that students should not be “forced” into studying maths.
“We certainly agree that students should have a foundation level of both numeracy and literacy, but forcing students to do a subject that they don’t want to do, is not helping anybody,” Mr Presland said.
“Someone who is a maths tutor or teacher has an invested issue, but mathematics is one thing and numeracy is another.
“In the same way as English and literacy are different; numeracy is a core skill in mathematics.”
However, Wagga maths tutor Kate Hurst said with a range of mathematics subjects suiting different abilities, there is “no excuse” why students should not be undertaking it.
“I think maths should definitely become compulsory because there’s not many careers out there that don’t require some level of maths,” Ms Hurst said.
“From general mathematics, extension 1 and 2 to advanced mathematics, they cater to so many different levels of knowledge and therefore I don’t think there’s an excuse that it shouldn’t be studied in Year 12.”
The 20-year-old graduated from Mater Dei Catholic College in 2016 and is now studying a bachelor’s degree in pre-medicine at Wollongong University.
“Maths provides so many skills that are applicable to hundreds of careers and I think students would miss out on opportunities if they chose not to study maths,” Ms Hurst said.
Similarly Michael Kemp, Charles Sturt University’s associate head of school in computer and maths, said it is important for life skills.
“I would support maths becoming compulsory because it is important for all people to use in everyday life, like understanding how home loans and credit cards work,” Dr Kemp said.
“Maths is important for life skills and not everyone needs to do calculus.
“I think the biggest or broader issue is that people aren’t choosing the right level of maths for the careers they want to get into.”
Dr Kemp said students are often not choosing the right level of maths for the careers they want to get into.
“Certainly people who want to or need maths in further education, like engineering, might not be doing the higher or advanced level of maths that is required,” he said.
“Those not inclined to do maths are probably not inclined to do those types of careers.
“However some might be missing opportunities without realising, as careers like psychology is statistic-based which many people don’t realise.”
CSU’s Dmitry Demskoy also argued for maths to become compulsory in Year 12, but said it’s not urgent.
“I’m not sure about the timeliness of implementing mathematics in Year 12 for next year, because schools have to be ready for this,” Mr Demskoy said.
“Many universities now require some basic knowledge of maths, like in education which requires students to sit both numeracy and literacy tests.
“If students stop practicing maths in Year 11, this gap of knowledge may result in many forgetting a lot of what they had learned, so they won’t be prepared for university.”
Mr Demskoy said with society putting greater emphasis on STEM-related careers and “more emphasis” on data and IT related professions, maths should become mandatory.
A Wagga mathematics enthusiast Phillip Charlton said whether maths should become compulsory is a common debate.
“Compulsory mathematics in Year 12 is often discussed as a means of addressing adult numeracy and a shortage of STEM graduates,” Dr Charlton said.
“While I would welcome greater participation in Year 12 mathematics, it's not clear that making it compulsory would address these issues.
“It is already the case that around 80 per cent of Year 12 students study some form of mathematics, and it seems unlikely that those who choose not to would consider a STEM career if mathematics were compulsory.”
Dr Charlton argued a lack of Year 12 mathematics does make many tertiary degrees more challenging, especially where the assumed knowledge includes calculus at the level of HSC Mathematics Advanced.
“Many experts including former chief scientist Ian Chubb and bodies such as the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, have instead called for the reintroduction of pre-requisites for some degrees,” he said.
“This would send a clear message that these subjects are valued in tertiary education and allow students to make an informed choice about what they need to study in high school in order to achieve their career goals.”