How the great maths pre-req mess started  

The idea that school students take easy or no maths in senior school to maximise their uni-entry ATAR score is a furphy according to the NSW Universities Admission Centre (CMM, Tuesday). How so, learned readers asked – here’s how, according to UAC.

Back in 2015 the agency crunched the numbers on maths results on the last year of the NSW school certificate, 2011 and the 2013 HSC. UAC found, students moving into senior high school stuck with a maths course consistent with “their demonstrated mathematical ability and interest.” The agency added that capable maths students who studied at advanced level for the HSC had higher ATARs than students who demonstrated similar math abilities in the School Certificate but dropped down, or out, of maths study for the HSC. “Similar effects can be observed with many other extension courses, and are the results of students concentrating (on) the units which count towards their ATAR in their strongest areas,” the admissions centre concluded.

UAC had no doubt why maths was in decline then and why that was, (it still is) a problem. Universities who wanted to expand enrolments stopped making it compulsory; “Unfortunately, an unintended consequence of this decision has been the rise of the general perception that the former pre-requisites are now merely desirable, with the result that building an appropriate academic foundation for an intended future course of study now plays little or no part in student subject selection,” it warned.

Which raises another question; would the problem exist at all if maths was better taught in schools so that students who like it and want to study STEM at university would stick with it.

Back in 2015 UAC also suggested bonus scores, which as bodgy university bonus marks schemes show,  was not such a good idea.


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