Uptake of calculus based mathematics in the new Queensland curricula

Year: 2021

Author: Chinofunga, Musarurwa David

Type of paper: Individual Paper

The new Queensland mathematics curricula was introduced in 2019 offering senior secondary students four mathematics options: Essential Mathematics, General Mathematics, Mathematical Methods and Specialist Mathematics. Mathematical Methods and Specialist Mathematics are calculus based options. Better and diverse career opportunities are available to students who successfully complete Mathematical Methods and/or Specialist Mathematics. This paper investigated state schools senior students’ mathematics curricula uptake in 2019 and 2020, focusing mainly on the calculus based options. Quantitative methods to analyse trends of student options and uptake using data from the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA) were applied. The data included subjects, school name, student enrolment, school postcode and district.   Data analysis provided an insight into the trends of student options and uptake over the two formative years of the new curriculum. More students opted for Mathematical Methods and Specialist Mathematics at the beginning of Year 11 but a significant number dropped out as they progressed. Most students in Mathematical Methods dropped out after the Unit 1 assessment, which is a problem-solving and modelling task. Schools situated in areas with high Socio-Economic Indexes had high enrolments of students in calculus-based mathematics. The paper argues for an urgent focus to redress the current trend and a pedagogical framework to enhance learning and teaching of mathematics. Schools offering must introduce problem-solving and modelling skills much earlier at the lower secondary levels for students to build the skills and capacity by the time students start Year 11. Schools situated in areas with low Socio-Economic indexes need support with resources to promote the uptake of calculus-based mathematics. The paper also argues that the current COVID-19 pandemic has made the world realise that advanced mathematics is key to human survival and Queensland must play its part.