Mention the maths teacher shortage to school leaders in the UK or US and you won’t find many surprised faces. The recruitment and retention crisis has been building since around 2011 in the UK; in 2017/18, maths recruited just 79% of the required number of trainees.[1] In the US, teacher shortages have been around since data started being kept more than 25 years ago, but the problems have become much more acute in recent years. Variations are seen state-to-state, but as an example, 80% of school districts in California reported a shortage of qualified teachers in the 2017/18 school year, especially in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects.[2] Unfortunately, this means that the challenges presented by the crisis are anything but new. However, in light of the new maths curriculum being introduced by the International Baccalaureate (IB) from September 2019, what new issues might schools face, and what existing issues might be exacerbated?

The cause

There are two fundamental problems at the heart of the maths teacher shortage. Difficulties recruiting, and high turnover rates. As a profession, teaching rarely offers maths graduates a career package as appealing as other occupations available to them. “With greater job opportunities offering stronger compensation in the broader labor market for individuals who have trained in mathematics and science fields, these subjects are up against a particularly difficult recruitment challenge.”[3] This also causes a high turnover rate, with many maths teachers leaving the profession within their early-career for more attractive opportunities.[4] Teacher turnover is further affected by lack of preparation; in a bid to drive recruitment, there are now a number of pathways into teaching that don’t necessarily prepare trainees in the same way that traditional teacher training does, and a link has been shown between these alternate pathways and a higher turnover rate. There is also a link between lack of administrative support in schools and teacher retention issues.[5]

The effect

To sum the effect up simply, schools are having to compromise: “Where maths teacher shortages occur, schools find that they receive few job applications for advertised posts; many of the applicants are not suitable; they frequently have to re-advertise; and they may make teaching appointments that they consider less than ideal.”[6] Inevitably, when teachers are underprepared, under-qualified or simply unsuitable, it’s the students’ education that’s really being compromised. At a time when excellent STEM education is more important than ever to prepare students for an increasingly digital future and jobs market, receiving a less than ideal maths education should not be an option.

The new IB DP curriculum

From September 2019, IB Diploma Programme (DP) maths will focus on developing the skills of analysis, abstraction and generalisation, risk awareness and statistical literacy, algorithmic thinking, modelling and inquiry. It will contain two routes: Analysis and Approaches, and Applications and Interpretation – both available at standard and higher level. Students who want to take a university course with a substantial mathematical element should take the Analysis and Approaches route. The Applications and Interpretation route is for those who enjoy describing the real world and solving practical problems using mathematics.

All courses will follow a common core of content. The main syllabus components are:

  • Number and algebra
  • Functions
  • Geometry and trigonometry
  • Statistics and probability
  • Calculus

Implementing this new curriculum could easily throw up obstacles for school leaders. For a start, timetabling will be affected, and some of the new courses might not have enough student take up for schools to run them. Teachers may not feel confident delivering the new curriculum, and an increase in content planning and preparation of assessment materials will be needed as the courses are new. That’s where we come in.

Supporting schools to deliver a high quality maths education

We will be offering IB World Schools across the globe support in implementing the new maths curriculum via two flexible solutions. We will offer Analysis and Approaches SL and HL as well as Applications and Interpretations SL and HL as Pamoja Taught courses, meaning students are taught the entire Diploma course online in full by our experienced IB teachers. It’s a great solution for schools who might not have a teacher in place, or for schools who do not have enough student interest to run one of the courses. All four subjects will also be available as School Taught courses, where we provide existing teachers at the school with all of the course content and assessment materials they need to deliver the new curriculum with ease.

If you’d like to arrange a one-to-one consultation with a member of our team to discuss the new maths curriculum or your school’s needs, please get in touch – we’ll be glad to give you a demo of our products.




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