On Monday, after my early 9 am class, I drove up to Sydney’s North Shore all the way to Wahroonga. I was slated to give a talk at Knox Grammar School to 70 or 80 Heads of Independent High School Maths Departments from around NSW, on the subject of “National Curriculum Issues and opportunities for revitalizing geometrical thinking in the classroom”, which I admit is a rather long-winded title.
I had been invited by Joshua Harnwell, a teacher there, who I had met in an earlier Board of Studies meeting, also about these ghastly new mathematics curricula proposed by ACARA, the national group entrusted with coming up with a syllabus for maths education around the country.
Knox Grammar is a lovely old-money private school set in the affluent suburbs of Sydney. There are a lot of such around, quite a difference from Canada where I grew up, where almost everyone except close friends of the Duke of Buckingham (or some such) just went to the nearest local high school, which was invariably a public school. Meaning it was free, and open to all who lived in the area. Although Australia prides itself on its egalitarianism, there is in some curious way quite a lot more class differentiation here than in Canada where I was raised, although perhaps I am just getting older and wiser to such things. In particular there are so many private schools in Oz that the public school system languishes a bit for funds, and there is an unhealthy divide educationally. Growing up where I did, my default view is that governments have an obligation to level the educational playing field as much as possible.
Not to say anything against Knox, a lovely school; and they put on a really fine lunch for us in a high-ceilinged glass-enclosed foyer, with a fine view of the spacious grounds. I had pleasant conversation with some high school heads over our salmon, talking about the merits of GeoGebra and other dynamic software packages.
After lunch I gave my talk, recorded for posterity since I had brought my trusty Sony video camera with me. So in case you weren’t there, and you are interested in the topics, which are quite important from my point of view, you can find the video and pdf of the talk at http://www.maths.unsw.edu.au/news/2012-08/national-curriculum-talk-norman-wildberger-knox-grammar.
One of the side points I made was that we need to rethink, or rather the media ought to rethink, the ranking system used to score the Olympics. Turns out that was related to some of the geometry I talked about, and maybe next time I’ll tell you about that.
In any case I enjoyed the opportunity to talk to high school teachers about something important; it feels good to get out of the ivory tower of academia every so often.