My review of the new draft Australian Mathematics Curriculum

numeracy leaders teachers Jun 16, 2021
Front cover of Australian draft curriculum

I have been looking in detail at the draft of the new Australian Mathematics Curriculum since its release. I am very passionate about the curriculum, as I believe this document can, and will, shape the way we teach maths over the next decade. This is our chance to really change things up! So, this week I wanted to share my thoughts and encourage you to get involved in the consultation process!

You can find the draft curriculum here.

In a nutshell...

In a nutshell, my thoughts on the new curriculum are that it is MUCH more descriptive compared to our current version. Currently I would consider our ‘elaborations’ as very “light”. They don’t really provide much actual ‘elaboration’.

In the new document, there is lots of detail and practical examples provided to support teachers. The elaborations even have codes to help with mapping. Overall, I think is a real positive as it will support teachers and teams to unpack the descriptors together. My only concern is that teachers will see these as “lesson” guides and try to replicate exactly what is in the elaborations. This is something we will need to work through together!

Here is an example from Year 1 Measurement (ACARA, 2021). You can see the descriptor on the left  and the elaborations on the right. 

The designers of the curriculum have included a new focus. This focus includes developing our student’s ability to “mathematise” which they define as the ability to “treat or regard a situation or problem mathematically”. Throughout the descriptors there are definitely a lot more verbs like, ‘investigate’, ‘explore’, ‘experiment’, ‘describe’ and ‘model’, which signify we are working towards developing a deeper understanding of maths in our students. Again, another positive!

Other changes are the fact that we now have six strands (number, algebra, measurement, space, statistics and probability) rather than our current three (N&A, M&G, S&P). While this might seem overwhelming- I think it makes sense to separate them out for the sake of clarity and reporting. I also like that the new curriculum embeds the proficiencies strands within the content descriptors and achievement standards rather than having them separate. This makes the proficiencies more tangible for teachers.

In terms of specific descriptors, there are several important changes and omissions. See below for an explanation of these.

 Year F-2 Changes

Currently Year One students are required to Recognise, describe and order Australian coins according to their value (ACMNA017). The word describe has been removed and students simply need to “recognize, sort and order coins”. I think this is valid as I’m not sure how important it is to ‘describe’ a coin. As an adult, I would describe the 5c coin as “little, round, silver” is that satisfactory?! 😊

The introduction of ‘Telling Time’ on an analogue clock has been moved from Year 1 to Year 2, where we can focus on the hour, half hour and quarter hour together. I think this is a great change. It is now a larger descriptor that Year 2’s can really ‘sink their teeth’ into!

Another big change is that the introduction of fractions has been moved from Year 1 to Year 2. This is MUCH more developmentally appropriate! This allows the Foundation and Year 1 students to really hone their whole number skills before we introduce fractions. Also, the introduction of the language of chance has been moved from Year 1 to Foundation. I think this is something that is very achievable in Foundation.

Finally, we no longer have to name and order seasons in Year 2 Maths. Currently we are required to: Name and order months and seasons (ACMMG040), this is considered to be sufficiently covered in HASS.

Year 5/6 Changes

In Year 6, this descriptor always puzzled me: Identify and describe properties of prime, composite, square and triangular numbers (ACMNA122).

Clearly prime and composite numbers are very important to investigate.

BUT square numbers are something we can cover in Year 3/4 when we are looking at arrays, and triangular numbers are interesting, but do we really need a whole descriptor dedicated to them?!

I am happy to say in the new draft curriculum, square numbers have been moved to Year 7 (I still think we can look at these earlier) and triangular numbers “can be used as an example for generating patterns in algebra, but are not essential content”. Tick!

Another change in the senior school is the Year 5 descriptor related to enlargement transformation, has been moved to Year 7 and 8.  This is the current descriptor: Apply the enlargement transformation to familiar two dimensional shapes and explore the properties of the resulting image compared with the original (ACMMG115). This always seemed an ‘odd’ descriptor to me, and is more developmentally appropriate in lower secondary school, as enlarging requires an understanding of proportion.

Another Year 5 descriptor which never really fitted for me was: Choose appropriate units of measurement for length, area, volume, capacity and mass (ACMMG108). This was/is a strange one, as area and volume are a Year 6 descriptor. So, it is good to see this has been moved to Year 6.

Year 3/4 Changes

The multiplication descriptor: Recall multiplication facts of two, three, five and ten and related division facts (ACMNA056) has been moved to Year 4. The new curriculum still requires us to introduce multiplication in Year 3, but through modelling situations using diagrams, equal groups and arrays. The recall of facts up to 10x10 remains as a Year 4 descriptor. It is important to note that this doesn’t mean we can’t teach multiplication facts in Year 3, we just don’t need to assess them until Year 4. There has also been a general ‘decluttering’ associated with 2D maps, from Year 2-5, which has always ‘doubled up’ with HASS descriptors.

My biggest bugbear with the curriculum has always been the language associated with place value (probably because this was my PhD research topic!) and my belief that decimals are introduced far too early (currently in Year 4).

One change has been made in this area.

The current Year 4 decimal descriptor reads: Recognise that the place value system can be extended to tenths and hundredths. Make connections between fractions and decimal notation (ACMNA079). The second part of this descriptor “make connections between fractions and decimals” has been moved to Year 5, as it was not considered appropriate for Year 4 students. I completely agree, but in my opinion the whole descriptor should be moved to Year 5, or at the very least adjust the descriptor to only introduce tenths in Year 4. My reluctance to introduce decimals in Year 4, stems from the findings of my research which indicated over 85% of Year 4 students lacked sufficient whole number place value understanding, and thus struggle to understand decimal place value.

Finally, I am very excited to see the verb rename has been included in the new place value descriptors from Year 2-6. For example, this Year 3 descriptor: represent, read, write, rename and order natural numbers to at least 10 000 using naming and writing conventions for larger numbers and relate these representations to place value in the base 10 number system (AC9M3N01). If you have seen my place value work, you will know that renaming is the most critical of the 6 aspects of place value I identified in my research, so it is great to see it included here.

My research also suggested that teachers find it difficult to understand the difference between the verbs the curriculum uses to describe place value including: partition, rearrange and regroup. I am still advocating for a simplification the language used in place value descriptors. For example, this Year 3 descriptor could simply be “apply place value to partition, rearrange and regroup  rename numbers to at least 10 000 to assist in calculations when solving problems (AC9M3N02)

Overall, I think the new curriculum is a BIG improvement. It is ‘wordier’, but I think this will assist teachers to develop a better understanding of what we are required to teach. I congratulate ACARA and those involved in the process to reshape our curriculum- it is certainly not an easy job- but someone has to do it!

Remember you can share your opinions through the ACARA draft consultation process (up until the 8th of July) by clicking here.

I would love to hear your thoughts and I know ACARA would too!


Want to learn more from Dr Ange Rogers? Click here to find out about her 'Quality Place Value Assessment in Years 3-6 Mini Course'

Ooh! Tell me more!

Enter your details below to receive weekly blog updates from Dr Ange!