As the demand for people with mathematical skills rises across the globe, the UK Government has launched Asian-Style maths hubs to try to raise the country’s standard.
Later this year, 50 teachers from Shanghai will be embedded in the hubs to teach pupils and run master-classes for other teachers
The scheme will cost $22 million and is an initiative Australia should explore, says Professor Mike Clapper, Executive Director at the Australian Mathematics Trust.
“There is always something to be learnt from the ways that others do things. Whether this particular initiative will adapt to the different culture of England will be the point of interest,” Professor Clapper told Motherpedia.
“Mathematics is highly prized in Chinese culture and maths teachers are highly regarded. I am not sure the same can be said for either UK or Australia.
“Australia is still performing reasonably well, but there is concern that our ranking has slipped a little in the latest comparative results. There has also been a reduction in the number of students taking senior level mathematics courses in the post-compulsory years of schooling.”
“Australia should be exploring all possibilities for improving take-up and performance in mathematics. We should keep a close eye on this initiative and if it is successful, we should explore a similar initiative here.
The Australian Mathematics Trust also has a range of competitions and problem-solving activities to encourage children’s interest in maths and to enable teachers to identify special talent.
Throughout July, 23 of Australia’s brightest students will compete in the world’s toughest science and mathematics competitions against 2,000 of the smartest kids in the world.
“At this level, Australia does very well on the world stage, finishing 15th of 100 countries at last year's Olympiad, which is outstanding given our relatively small population,” says Clapper.
“Probably the most satisfying aspect of the Olympiad program is that these very able students get an opportunity to mix with others who are like-minded, making many friends and sharing their passion for knowledge. “
“Many of these students go on to become career mathematicians and contribute to the program by mentoring succeeding generations. “
Professor Clapper said parents wanting to encourage children’s interest in the subject should focus on the power of mathematics to solve problems, not just the acquisition of technical skills.
“Maths should be fun and purposeful. All too often, the text-book approach makes it boring and does not promote deep understanding, merely regurgitation.”