Maths teacher Michael McKenna with students (from left) Sam Dawes, Georgia Clacher, and Michael Long at Whitsunday Anglican School.
Maths teacher Michael McKenna with students (from left) Sam Dawes, Georgia Clacher, and Michael Long at Whitsunday Anglican School. CONTRIBUTED

Maths teacher numbers don't add up

MATHS teachers are in short supply but there's no easy solution to what's described as a "deepening crisis".

As the secondary student population continues to grow so does the need for mathematically qualified teachers.

According to a report released by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, a severe shortage of maths teachers is plaguing the nation.

The authors of the report suggested the problem was too large to be solved by attempting to increase the number of graduate teachers alone.

Australian Secondary Mathematics Teacher Shortfalls: A Deepening Crisis warns isolated solutions such as initiatives to boost the flow of maths graduates into education will fall short of tackling an issue that has been worsening over three-decades.

AMSI director Professor Tim Brown said urgent action was needed to set rigorous benchmarks in teacher qualifications, transparency of the status of Australia's mathematically prepared teacher workforce and retraining for those currently teaching.

"The Federal and State governments must prioritise the collection of subject-specific teacher qualification data to track workforce standards and inform planning," Professor Brown said.

One of the paper's authors, Jan Thomas said the growing problem was a result of more than three decades of inaction by Australian governments, both Federal and State.

"This paper demonstrates the historical failures that have contributed to the current crisis in our classrooms. The number of mathematically prepared teachers in Australian has been in decline since the 1980s. The mathematical community, including AMSI, has been calling for action for decades," Ms Thomas said.

A spokesperson from the Queensland Department of Education said out of 25,000 secondary teachers, more than 7000 were capable of teaching mathematics.

They said a number of initiatives and programs were currently utilised within Queensland schools in an effort to access the teachers they needed now and into the future.

Discipline-specific online STEM training is provided to more than 3100 state school teachers to support their capability in subject areas including digital technologies, science and mathematics.

"Currently, there are four STEM teaching roles advertised for state schools in the Mackay District: two permanent and two temporary. The regional human resource team continues to work closely with these individual schools to ensure their workforce requirements are met," the spokesperson said.