Declining enrolments in senior secondary mathematics courses: Staff and student perceptions


Within this paper the author presents a comparison of results from two research projects investigating the issue of declining student enrolments in senior secondary mathematics classes. For one project, 50 Heads of Learning Area: Mathematics (HOLAMs) within Western Australian secondary schools outlined why they believe capable students were not enrolling in the two higher-level mathematics courses of study. The second project reports on the perceptions of Year 11 and Year 12 students in Western Australian schools (n=1351) as to why they believe capable students elect not to enroll in a higher mathematics course. For both projects, participants were invited to participate in a single, anonymous, online survey comprised chiefly of qualitative items. Key findings from the HOLAMs indicated perceptions of student awareness that two mathematics courses are not needed for university entrance, there are other viable and less rigorous courses of study available, and students can maximise their Australian Tertiary Admissions Ranking (ATAR) score without completing these mathematics courses. The key findings espoused by Year 11 and Year 12 students included an expressed dissatisfaction with mathematics, the opinion that there are other more viable courses of study to pursue, and that the Australian Tertiary Admissions Ranking (ATAR) can be maximised by taking a lower mathematics course. In addition, student testimony suggested that there are few incentives offered for undertaking a higher mathematics course, and that such courses are not needed for university entrance nor later life. The findings reported in this paper have significance for shaping educational policy in Western Australian schools and more widely across Australia.


secondary mathematics enrolments, secondary mathematics participation, senior secondary mathematics

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