A problem shared could be a problem solved: helping your children tackle their mathematical understandings

So, your child is about to start upper primary school, and you want to give them the best chance to tackle mathematics?

I’m based in NSW, Australia, so this information, and the links I’ve provided, are relevant to this state.

First step: the education department

The NSW Department of Education gives you an outline of all the subjects your child will learn; here is the link to the parental guide to the NSW primary syllabuses:

https://educationstandards.nsw.edu.au/wps/portal/nesa/parents/parent-guide

And this is the page specifically for the primary curriculum:

https://educationstandards.nsw.edu.au/wps/portal/nesa/parents/parent-guide/primary-school-k-6[RB1]

Their official page tells you what your child should/will learn each year in maths. This is excellent reading…


Flies on the wall — should we assume we know what’s going on in today’s classrooms? (Image shows flies captured on ‘fly paper’, a staple of residences in country Australia.

At a time when the globe is relying on university-educated health experts to try to keep COVID-19 at bay with the vaccine rollout, I’m bewildered by those who argue school and university education have nothing to do with ‘real-life’.

I recently came across this stance in the 2019 book, Fake: Fake Money, Fake Teachers, Fake Assets, by Robert Kiyosaki. An entrepreneur and self-described ‘educator’, he’s known for Rich Dad, Poor Dad book and brand, has a podcast, has written a dozen books, and co-authored a couple more with US President Donald Trump. Kiyosaki is rich and successful, though has gone…


Flamboyance: Teaching maths out of the box

“[They] were not qualified to teach it, did not have stories to tell students and did not personally identify with the subject and so lacked confidence and ‘flamboyance’ in their teaching,” says Dr Linda Hobbs.

Almost four out of 10 educators teaching high-school mathematics (years 7 to 10 inclusive) in Australia aren’t qualified to do so, according to the Australian Council of Educational Research.

It’s often cited as a reason for Australian students’ mostly declining maths scores in the Program for International Student Assessments (PISA) ranking. And, with fewer senior high school students tackling harder maths subjects, concern is growing…


An unprompted piece of artwork from one of my students while I was his substitute math teacher (good likeness to me, but off task, has a typo and I definitely wasn’t teaching the class for ‘the pay’).

So, you’re a substitute high school teacher and have just been handed your day sheet. There’s a load of math classes on there. You scout around staff room desks for lesson plans — some are sketchy on details. Oh, I didn’t mention you’re not trained as a math high school teacher yet? That’s me to a tee — but I seek out and often get math classes to cover.

You never know what topic of math you’ll be teaching. And just when you think, yeah, I did math x years ago, you remember that it’s not that simple. You not…


Mathematics staring us in the face in everyday life with Fibonacci numbers.

Why is it not okay to say ‘I can’t read’, but okay to say you can’t do maths?

That was a question posed at an ABC TV Q&A panel discussion on the Australian education system, broadcast on 8 October 2019 (and available to view here).

It seems like the groundswell of people who hate, fear or are frustrated by math are in the majority. Struggle and disdain of math is a cause that appears to unite many people, so much so that it has becomes the norm.

What will it take to get a tipping point and swing attitudes the…


If you’re a provisional day-to-day substitute teacher in school chances are you’re finding it tricky to get a school principal to say ‘yes’ to supervising you to become accredited or fully registered, depending on where you live.

Maybe you’ve even completed blocks of temporary teaching at different schools and been fobbed off when you mention the ‘A’ word. Schools are happy to schedule you for work, to fill their holes day-to-day, but you’re on your own when need an accreditation supervisor. That’s been my experience.

Been fobbed off?

Perhaps you recognise what I’m talking about here. You might have got these responses whenever…


The front cover of ‘Teacher’, by Gabbie Stroud. Published June 2018 (Allen & Unwin, Australia)

Gabbie Stroud’s novel Teacher has been flying off the shelves in major department stores as teachers around the country get their nose — and minds — into it.

As a memoir of a former teacher’s years in NSW, Canadian and UK primary schools, Teacher is harrowing and poignant — and it only took a temporary chink off my idealism for the profession.

I was chatting with other teachers recently about what I thought of the book and the resounding response was ‘I wasn’t sure if I should read it’. …


Crunching away at the figures … now finished revising Year 10 maths. Yes!

As one of the many casual teachers in NSW, Australia, I’ve struggled to find permanent work. Yet I’m hearing that maths high school teachers are in short supply. Become one of them and you’re quickly nabbed, guaranteed a job for life. The penny has dropped. Why not retrain from primary teaching, I thought?

I’m making it happen some 35 years after I passed ‘General Mathematics’ in my final year of school. In 2017, I completed an online course to help me revised the maths students learn up to the end of year 10. …

Margaret Paton

Education writer MTeach|GradDip Comm Mgmt |BA Journalism

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