Moving numbers

Getting ready for new IBDP Maths

With new Maths courses being introduced in the IB  Diploma from September 2019, and challenges already facing schools when it comes to Maths teacher recruitment, Sunil Nanwani looks at how schools can prepare for the year ahead.

The current Maths challenge

Mention the maths teacher shortage to international school leaders and you won’t find many surprised faces. In Britain, it has been building over the last decade and for the 2017-2018 academic year, only 79% of the necessary new Maths trainee teachers were recruited. A similar challenge has occurred in the United States for an even longer period. Maths teachers are sorely in demand.

“There’s a worldwide shortage of good Maths teachers in Western countries,” says Diane Jacoutot, Managing Director of international teacher recruitment company Edvectus. “Less than half of UK Maths teachers have a Maths degree, and in the US the issue is no better. International schools in the Middle East have a particularly hard time because many Ministries of Education require Maths teachers to have a Maths degree which the majority of Maths teachers do not have,” she explains.

Andrew Wigford, CEO of specialist international school recruiter, Teachers International Consultancy, agrees. “Maths teachers are always in demand by international schools and particularly those with International Baccalaureate Higher Level experience,” he says. “It is very challenging to find IB Maths teachers. It doesn’t really depend on the location of the school vacancy, it’s more to do with the role and how difficult it is to find the right skill and experience,” he adds.

Unlike the National Curriculum of England and Wales, or the US Common Core curricula, governments don’t invest in training IB teachers. They must receive training in schools that use the IB curriculum. This means there are comparatively fewer IB teachers. When that’s combined with the Maths teacher shortage, the problem multiplies.

At a time when rigorous STEM education is more important than ever to prepare students for an increasingly digital future and jobs market, receiving a substandard Maths education should not be an option. But that is the reality for many schools, with their students learning with Maths teachers who are under-qualified or insufficiently experienced. For IB World Schools, this challenge is about to get even tougher.

The new Maths challenge

From September 2019, IB Diploma Programme (DP) Maths is changing. It will offer two routes: Analysis and Approaches, and Applications and Interpretation, both of which will be available to students at standard and higher level.

These routes aim to focus on developing the skills of analysis, abstraction and generalisation, risk awareness and statistical literacy, algorithmic thinking, modelling and inquiry, and all courses will follow a common core of content. This includes number and algebra, functions, geometry and trigonometry, statistics and probability, and calculus but, depending on the route, the approach to learning and the skills developed will differ.

Guidance for students on course selection is important. Students could choose the Mathematics HL/SL course depending on the reasons for their 3 HL subject selection. Those who want to take a university course with a substantial mathematical element should select the Analysis and Approaches route. The Applications and Interpretation route is more suitable for those students wishing to develop their skills of solving practical contextual problems using mathematics.

For example, students keen on pursuing psychology at university will benefit by taking the Application and Interpretation course alongside psychology. That’s because the new Application and Interpretation course goes into great depth about hypothesis testing methods which will benefit students who will be conducting experimental study. Those interested in pursuing engineering fields should take the Analysis and Approaches course as there are extensive interdisciplinary links between these fields.

The challenge for teachers

For teachers, it is a different approach too. No longer will Further Mathematics (HL) or Mathematics Studies be offered. Analysis and Approaches, or Applications and Interpretations will be the two options instead, and both will be offered as HL or SL courses. Another change is that both the new SL courses are a complete subset of the HL. This was not the case previously. The new SL courses will have 60 hours of common content. In theory, this means that both HL and SL students can be together in the same classroom with the same teacher, or you can have both the SL classes combined for at least a semester, or even slightly more. This arrangement can provide administrators with greater flexibility when it comes to scheduling mathematics classes and managing teacher resources.

However, finding suitably qualified teachers, particularly in the Application and Interpretation HL course might pose a challenge as the content is quite specialised. In addition, not all schools will be large enough with the teacher capacity to be able to offer two HL mathematics classes.

Paper 3 options such as Calculus, and Statistics & Probability, will no longer be offered. Instead these will be assessed within the new Mathematics HL courses. The new Paper 3 will, instead, consist of extended-response questions and will require students to be able to demonstrate problem solving skills, investigations, modelling and applying mathematics to a variety of real-life contexts. Students who come from an inquiry-based curriculum such as the MYP are familiar with these style of questioning from their MYP experience.

Managing change and choice

The reality for many schools is that this will not be easy, both administratively, and for teaching and learning. Timetabling may be affected and lack of demand may result in limited options for students. And for Maths teachers, there is limited time to prepare content and assessment materials to deliver the new curriculum; challenging at the best of times, and a much bigger problem for those with inexperienced Maths teachers or those with limited IBDP skills.

There are options to support schools, ranging from professional development support, to the provision of course content and assessment materials for Maths teachers by Pamoja Education, and even the complete provision of  Pamoja Taught online learning for students meaning that students can take the entire Diploma course online by experienced IB teachers through an online platform.

At Chatsworth International, Singapore, because of our size, we will be offering a combination: Pamoja Taught Programme for one course, face-to-face teacher for the other. This will provide our students and our administrators the options and the flexibility.

What is essential is that senior leaders and IBDP Maths coordinators must address the challenge now. With just six months until implementation, preparing for change is a priority.

Sunil Nanwani is Head of Maths at Chatsworth International School in Singapore and an IB Math SL online teacher at Pamoja.

You can read more about his role as an online teacher with Pamoja here



To find out more about the options available from Pamoja Education – click on their logo.

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