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New JCU subject to inspire next gen maths teachers

JCU is helping to address the need for adequately trained mathematics teachers by offering an innovative new mathematics subject at its Townsville campus.

New JCU subject to inspire next gen maths teachers

First published August 7, 2013

James Cook University is helping to address the need for adequately trained mathematics teachers by offering an innovative new mathematics subject at its Townsville campus.

JCU’s School of Education and its School of Engineering and Physical Sciences have collaborated to design and teach a new mathematics subject specifically designed for secondary mathematics teachers of the future.

While universities in the United States have offered such subjects for some time, JCU’s collaboration between the mathematics and education disciplines is believed to be unique in Australian universities.

Dr Shaun Belward, from JCU’s School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, and Dr Jo Balatti from the School of Education, have worked closely for the past two years designing the mathematics subject, which is directly linked to the National Curriculum.

The F-10 National Curriculum sets out the core knowledge, understanding, skills and general capabilities important for all Australian students.

It describes the learning entitlement of students as a foundation for their future learning, growth and active participation in the Australian community.

Dr Belward and Dr Balatti are co-teaching the subject to the first intake of students during Study Period 2 (or SP2), which started last week. It is being offered to Education students and those Science students who are planning to be secondary school teachers.

Dr Balatti said she was pleased with the strong enrolment in the subject to date and said students across education, mathematics and sciences had been attracted to it.

“In the past, students who want to be secondary mathematics teachers have completed a series of university mathematics subjects that are not directly linked to the mathematics that they will be responsible for teaching,” Dr Balatti said.

“The newly designed mathematics subject means that graduating teachers will now have a deep knowledge of the mathematics taught in high schools and how to teach it.”

Dr Balatti said as a result, JCU would be graduating better quality secondary mathematics teachers with strong mathematical content knowledge.

Dr Belward said the new subject would ultimately benefit northern Queenslanders.

“This subject is formal acknowledgement by both mathematics and education specialists of the crucial role mathematics teachers play in the future of the region,” he said.

“Most of JCU’s education graduates are employed in northern Queensland so northern Queensland students across all levels of education will reap the benefits of better quality mathematics teachers.

“Following the trend, better quality mathematics teachers in northern Queensland will mean more northern Queensland students studying mathematics, and in turn improved innovations which are linked to a stronger northern Queensland economy. Once again, northern Queensland leads the way.”

The standard of mathematics teaching in Australia has recently been in the media spotlight, with Australian Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb predicting the economy faces a bleak future if it does not improve.

In a speech at the Mathematics of Planet Earth Conference in July this year, Professor Chubb said Australia’s falling standards in the field means we will struggle to remain an internationally competitive economy into the future, as mathematics underpins innovations in modern economies.

“Males enrolling in mathematics degrees in Australia are about half the OECD average, for women it is a third of the OECD average,” he said.

Professor Chubb said that one of the causes of this decline was the shortage of, and support for, adequately trained mathematics teachers.

For more information, photo opportunities or interviews, contact:

Jo Balatti, Senior Lecturer, School of Education, tel: (07) 4781 6970

Shaun Belward, Senior Lecturer, School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, tel: (07) 4781 4297

Jodie Derrick, Administration Officer, Faculty Arts, Education & Social Sciences tel: (07) 4781 5641

JCU Media contact: Caroline Kaurila (07) 4781 4586 or 0437 028 175