Maths problem: review finds shortage of teachers and researchers

December 14, 2022

There are significant challenges facing teaching and research in the mathematical sciences in Australia, according to a nation-wide review of the discipline.

The findings are part of a mid-term review of Australia’s 10-year plan for mathematical sciences published today, and overseen by the Australian Academy of Science’s National Committee for Mathematical Sciences (NCMS).

Issues raised included the continued long-term decline in the supply of qualified secondary mathematics teachers.

NCMS Chair and Academy Fellow Professor Alan Welsh said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the university sector had also resulted in notable losses to the mathematical sciences research community.

“COVID-19 exacerbated gender imbalances in the mathematical sciences workforce,” Professor Welsh said.

“These impacts affect not just mathematical sciences research outputs but also the quality of mathematical and statistical education available at all levels in Australia.”

The mid-term review recommends:

  1. continuing to develop programs and addressing current issues in teaching to give all Australian school students access to outstanding mathematics teachers
  2. urgently addressing the cuts to mathematical courses at universities, which have impacted the ability of university students in Australia to access a degree in which they can major in the mathematical sciences
  3. emphasising the contributions of mathematical sciences in responding to national challenges and informing policy decisions.

National Committee member and Academy Fellow Professor Kerrie Mengersen said the opportunities provided by the mathematical sciences community can only be realised with appropriate recognition of its role in responding to developing areas of interest from the government and research sectors.

“This must be paired with infrastructure and resourcing to support excellent mathematical and statistical work for the research that underpins many solutions to contemporary challenges, and to ensure high-quality education to equip the next generation of Australians with the mathematical science knowledge needed for the future,” Professor Mengersen said.

Read the mid-term review.

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