Students need incentive to study harder maths units say universities

PERTH’S four universities say there is an “urgent need” to reward students who elect to take higher level mathematics subjects as part of their Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR).

The move follows concerns too many students capable of taking more challenging maths subjects are choosing easier options to gain a higher ATAR score.

Students can choose from three ATAR maths subjects ranging in difficulty from Mathematics Applications (easiest), to Mathematics Methods (intermediate) and Mathematics Specialist (highest level).

UWA professor Alec Cameron said interim enrolment figures indicated that the proportion of Year 12 students enrolled in medium or higher level mathematics in 2016 had dropped dramatically to almost half that of the previous year.

“This means that students with a reasonable level of ability in maths are choosing the easier Mathematics Applications course instead of Mathematics Methods to achieve a perceived ATAR advantage,” he said.

“We all agree there is an urgent need to put in place clear and reasonable incentives for students to choose the highest level of mathematics appropriate to their aptitude and future aspirations.”

Business groups consistently identify poor numeracy skills as barriers to employment and productivity growth generally.