National Curriculum Development and Initial Reflections on the Mathematics Framing Paper

Article excerpt

The National Mathematics Curriculum Framing Paper has been released for consultation until 28 February 2009 (see www.ncb.org.au). Professional associations, teachers, teacher educators and others are taking this opportunity to organise meetings and forums to consider the views presented in the paper and to provide critical feedback and commentary on the proposed broad directions. The University of Sydney held a National Curriculum Symposium in December to bring together teachers, school system personnel, academics and representatives from the National Curriculum Board to have a "robust and broad ranging discussion" about the four framing papers released by the NCB: English, Mathematics, History and the Sciences.

The program for the symposium began with a presentation by Professor Kerry Kennedy about his reflections on national curriculum in Australia over the last 30 years. This was followed by brief presentations by each of the authors of the framing papers. Discussion groups for each of the disciplines considered key questions about the papers with feedback from each group. Finally Rob Randall, the acting Director of the NCB commented on the challenges identified by the discussion groups. In this paper, I summarise the comments and discussion about curriculum development in general and the National Mathematics Curriculum Framing Paper in particular. I hope the comments provide a catalyst for discussions at your school or workplace.

Professor Kerry Kennedy (Hong Kong Institute of Education), a Fellow of the Australian College of Education and a life member of the Australian Curriculum Studies Association, set the scene for the discussions by presenting his reflections on federal government responses and commitments to national curricula. With reference to Susan Ryan, John Dawkins and Julia Gillard, he noted concerns about educational standards and the nation's economic needs with the suggestion that a nation's curriculum is a reflection of its values and vision, which should not be concerned with deficits but needs to be visionary. The importance of community commitment and consultation was emphasised so that the curriculum is less contested and supported--an approach adopted in Hong Kong with recent curriculum reforms involving several years of consultation. Kennedy's critical commentary noted that a national curriculum is not a panacea for the nation's problems; rather, it must be a collective enterprise concerned about social justice, equity and culture.

To provide a context for what follows, the summary points from the National Mathematics Curriculum Framing Paper are presented below (National Curriculum Board, 2008, p. 1, paragraph 15).

In summary, this framing paper argues that:

* mathematics is important for all citizens

* some students are currently excluded from effective mathematics study, and the curriculum and school structure should seek to overcome this

* a futures orientation should be evident in both the emphasis on thinking and creativity, and in the embedding of appropriate use of digital technological tools

* numeracy should be both embedded and specifically identified within the mathematics curriculum

* all aspects of the curriculum should be clearly and succinctly described

* more important topics should be emphasised, with a goal of reducing the extent to which teachers feel the need to rush from topic to topic

* advanced students can be extended appropriately using challenging problems within current topics.

In his brief comments about the Mathematics Framing Paper, Professor Peter Sullivan (Monash University and leader of the Advisory Group for the paper) mentioned many of the summary points made above. He noted the proposed structure of the curriculum, describing the three content strands (Number and Algebra, Measurement and Geometry, Statistics and Probability) and associated topics as "nouns" and the proficiency strands of Understanding, Fluency, Problem solving and Reasoning as "verbs. …