The middle years (Years 5-9) are a crucial stage of schooling with significant consequences for ongoing educational success and future participation in society. It is in these years that students can be really engaged in maths and then will be more likely to select mathematics courses in upper school so they can access STEM careers. Teachers in this critical phase need specialist preparation, as issues related to young adolescents and the style of teaching needed to engage them in learning is important.
Despite maths being a foundational subject for Australian students, there is a concerning shortage of mathematics teachers across the country, with the federal government even referring to the issue as a barrier to the national STEM agenda. In Western Australia this shortage has prompted the need for Graduate Certificate programs to hone teachers’ skills and understanding to effectively teach mathematics in the vital middle years.
Developing skills in maths has a multitude of benefits, just the simple daily acts of telling the time, banking, shopping, budgeting, and cooking require a base knowledge. More importantly, the study of maths builds problem-solving and reasoning skills that promote critical thinking, which is vital for the future learning--and future careers--students will be progressing onto.
New careers in areas like biomechanics, virtual reality, robotics and artificial intelligence will drive huge demand for maths skills in the coming decades. So with this understanding of the importance of maths, The University of Notre Dame Australia’s School of Education has launched the Graduate Certificate in Education (Middle Years Mathematics) to be nested within the existing Master of Education (Curriculum).
As well as the established shortage of qualified mathematics teachers, the new program also tackles the challenges that come from 76% of secondary students having to be taught by an out-of-field teacher for at least one year in Years 7-10. Without graduates in secondary mathematics, these out-of-field teachers need to develop their knowledge and skills of mathematical content and specialised pedagogical content knowledge to effectively teach students in the middle years.
Associate Dean Teaching and Learning on the Fremantle Campus Dr Anne Coffey said the new Graduate Certificate offered teachers the chance to upskill in valuable areas.
“There is a real need to re-introduce the magic into the teaching of maths," Dr Coffey said.
We want our middle years’ students to be inspired to learn to appreciate the value of maths in their everyday lives and to choose maths subjects as they progress through their schooling.
Senior Lecturer and Coordinator, Conversion Degrees Dr Derek Hurrell said “The Middle Years are pivotal in engaging students in mathematics if we want to produce the kinds of people that can lead us into the 21st Century and beyond. Research tells us that Middle Years’ students need teaching and teachers that specifically cater for their development, teaching which recognises and employs the latest in the brain research and the developing field of understanding around adolescent learning. This is particularly needed in mathematics.”
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