School subtracts maths classes
One school, faced with declining numbers of students succeeding in maths, has taken the extraordinary step of removing the subject from its timetable.
Hawker College last year replaced formal maths classes with a flexible student-led study program integrating online learning and specially created work spaces.
Co-ordinator Erin Gallagher said the outdated ''pen and paper'' model had been replaced by year 11 and year 12 students working one-on-one with teachers or in small groups to complete the curriculum at their own pace at the Canberra school.
They are required to be in a learning commons area for a minimum of two hours each week, scanning QR electronic barcodes to register their attendance.
''Some students struggled with the idea of doing things differently, which is understandable after studying 10 years of maths in a very particular way,'' Ms Gallagher said.
''Our aim was to turn that on its head and identify the best way for them to learn.''
Recent international studies found Australian students ranked 18th in the world for study of maths, with declining numbers of boys and girls enrolling in the subject in the final years of high school. In 2010, only 18.8 per cent of young people studied maths, science or technology, below the international average of 26.4 per cent.
Ms Gallagher, president of the Canberra Mathematics Association, said the new approach made teaching maths fun again, using a special Hawker maths website, YouTube videos and interactive software to engage students.
With resources being adopted by other ACT schools, the website has had more than 16,000 visits.
The school combined two classrooms to create the commons space. Ms Gallagher said parents welcomed the new program.
''If you talk to any of the staff involved, they will tell you that last year was very demanding and developing resources from scratch has been a lot of work,'' she said.
''But we can see the amazing empowerment the new style has given the students and seeing them work together to answer a question or explain something is fantastic.''
She said Hawker principal Peter Sollis and other staff had given the innovative program strong support and early signs of academic improvements were emerging.
''Teachers can pick up when a student is struggling more quickly and go back or reinforce knowledge with them individually,'' Ms Gallagher said.
''When students are voluntarily spending extra time on maths, we know it's working as intended.''