Monday, 16 Aug 2010

For immediate release Monday August 16 2010

Mathematics teaching and learning to reach beyond the basics

Mathematics teachers and textbooks should provide more instruction on reasoning to encourage learning that goes beyond the basics, University of Melbourne Foundation Professor of Mathematics Education Kaye Stacey will tell the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) conference on Tuesday.

In the opening keynote address on day two of the annual research conference, Professor Stacey will draw on her research into mathematical reasoning and suggest why and how it should be given a more prominent place in Australian mathematics classrooms.

“Learning about reasoning establishes a feeling that mathematics makes sense and is not just a set of arbitrary rules,” Professor Stacey said.

According to Professor Stacey, Australian mathematics lessons are currently characterised by a ‘shallow teaching syndrome’ of low complexity problems undertaken with excessive repetition, and an absence of mathematical reasoning and connections in classroom discussion.

Professor Stacey believes there is a need for teachers to possess sufficiently strong mathematical knowledge and deep understanding of mathematical teaching theory.

She suggests that teachers receive guidance on what type of reasoning they can expect and encourage at each year level, as well as the provision of additional support for educators teaching outside their field or specialisation.

Furthermore, mathematical reasoning would be given more prominence if the major purpose of explanations in textbooks was to establish thinking tools for use in subsequent problems.

“The difficulty of the learning is heightened by the hierarchical nature of mathematics, where skill is built on skill and concept is built on concept,” Professor Stacey said.

“No wonder that learning ‘the basics’ can easily fill all the time in school devoted to mathematics.”

ACER Research Conference 2010, Teaching Mathematics? Make it count, takes place at the Crown Conference Centre, Melbourne on 16 and 17 August. Further information is available from


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