A report commissioned by the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers (AAMT) has shown that the relationships teachers develop with students in the classroom is more critical to engaging students than the level of their qualifications in maths.
The survey of 2,500 maths students and teachers found that relationships and soft-skills from maths teachers led to a better level of student engagement in the subject.
Given 35 percent of teachers have flagged leaving the profession in five years, a shortage of specialist maths teachers has been a concern for many in the education sector, with only a third of maths teachers having a specialist qualification in the subject.
Former teacher and co-founder of student feedback software company Pivot, Ms Cleo Westhorpe, said the survey highlights how the ability of teachers to set high expectations for their students while at the same time boosting their confidence is key.
“Many students get discouraged in maths classes when they feel intimidated or lost. Our research shows that those teachers who invest in getting to know their students, promote collaboration in the classroom, and actively seek feedback on their students’ learning experience are highly effective,” she said.
The report ‘Boosting Student Engagement in Maths’ makes five key recommendations, including expanding teaching strategies, focusing on relationships in the classroom, and taking on board student feedback in terms of what’s most effective.
Alternative strategies teachers might employ include using narrative to connect maths to topics of wider every day interest and grouping students at similar ability levels for the completion of projects and assignments.
Mr Allan Dougan, CEO of AAMT, commended the report’s recommendations.
“The decline in student participation rates in maths over the last few decades has been stark with year 12 participation in higher level maths dropping below 10 percent for the first time in 2022. We need to do something to arrest that.”
“Engagement is critical to retaining that interest in and focus on maths and sciences and we commend this report and its recommendations to school leaders and teachers.”