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Comment on Maths in the National Curriculum
30 May 2010
Dear Mr Hill
Please find below comments from the Australian Association for Environmental Education
on the draft Mathematics curriculum.
“The cross-curriculum dimension of commitment to sustainable living… provides an engaging and
rich context for mathematics learning.”
These eighteen words give the full extent of the attention given to sustainability in the national
curriculum in Maths. The Australian Association for Environmental Education (AAEE) believes that
this significantly downplays the importance (and urgency) of sustainability and the role of Maths in
enabling students to be critical and creative learners who are building capacity to work towards
sustainable lifestyles. AAEE also suggests that this limited and narrow attention to sustainability
indicates a “do-as-you-will” attitude; it certainly offers no guidance or direction.
The Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers has written a comprehensive document
entitled, “Mathematical knowledge and understanding for effective participation in Australian
society.” It has also written a comprehensive thousand-word document about the importance of
students developing consumer and financial literacy which can be found at
Since Mathematics underpins quantitative disciplines with strong ties to the natural world and
sustainability such as economics, geography and science, AAEE suggests it is apt that a statement
specifying the relevance of Mathematics to sustainability in national curriculum should be included.
Such a statement must be clear and explicit about how sustainability is to be expressed as a crossdisciplinary dimension within the Math curriculum.
AAEE believes Maths must be a real tool in achieving sustainability, rather than perceived as:
disconnected from real world relevance to students’ engagement with the environment
disinclined to engage with the big issues of environmental education such as land
degradation, Climate Change and biodiversity loss (even though these require Maths to
register their findings)
separate and detached from learning that is relevant and essential for sustainability
attempting to be viewed as a value-free discipline, when in fact Maths used as a tool for
economics, geography and science in the working world is anything but value free.
AAEE would be willing to work with the Maths Association and ACARA to prepare a statement
(similar to that for consumer and financial literacy) to address the significance of sustainability to
students, in line with a strong definition of sustainability, so that teachers of Mathematics are
offered leadership and direction for incorporating sustainability into their discipline.
AAEE agrees that numeracy is vital. AAEE also believes that school curricula need to ensure skills are
relevant to achieving sustainable societies. The Maths curriculum needs to attend to the question,
Numerate to what end?
Yours faithfully
Phil Smith
President AAEE