I’m spending some extra effort today figuring out the differences between the current Western Australian senior mathematics courses in secondary school, and that proposed as the National Curriculum for mathematics. Someone intending to do mathematics, engineering and the quantitative sciences should take 3AMAT, 3BMAT, 3CMAT, 3DMAT and 3(A/B/C/D)MAS. So if we do not speak of the student who is not intending to have a good level of mathematics after graduation, then there are eight units to take, each unit is a semester long and in total it would normally be contained in the last two years of secondary school. This is the current WA system, which has only been instituted recently.
The National Curriculum has four mathematics streams consisting of four units each. The weakest is “Essential Mathematics” which we would not include in our criteria as we are just considering the student who is intending to go to university. The other three are “Specialist Mathematics”, “Mathematical Methods” and “General Mathematics”. On a first glance, it seems the content of these units will be an improvement over the current WA courses. However, there is a problem in that the endemic problem of students choosing lower level mathematics subjects is likely to not change in the new curriculum. Some people have questioned the titles of these subjects, for example “Specialist Mathematics”, which some would see as a pseudonym for “Very Hard Mathematics”. Such titles may give students the illusion that Specialist Maths is much much harder than Math Methods; and this is certainly not the case on inspection of their content. So here I will summarise each subject of the WA system, adjacent to a summary of each subject in the National Curriculum. Then it might be possible to make comparisons between the two. I will only look at what could be potentially be taken at Year 12 by a student wanting to do science or engineering. I will say one more thing though, the documentation for the National Curriculum is much clearer and easier to read than the WA Curriculum (a tip for you budding bureaucrats!).