While 42 per cent of Australia’s 15-year-olds are not proficient in maths according to international standards, and the difference in ability in any one class may be up to eight year levels, there are solutions for teachers and students, according to the Australian Learning Lecture (ALL) which is run from the State Library Victoria and seeks to bring big ideas in education to national attention.

ALL’s latest case study, Maths Pathway, showcases a personalised maths teaching program developed by two Teach For Australia Associates, which is helping students at Bacchus Marsh College to achieve significant growth in their maths skills.

“Our students are coming into Year 7 with a wide range of maths ability – from Grade 2 to Year 8 level,” says Samantha Goodman, Teaching and Learning Leading Teacher at Bacchus Marsh College.

“Ideally we’d be looking at a growth rate of 100 per cent – which is one grade level’s growth over a calendar year, but our students often perform above that now. Many of them are performing at an average of 160 per cent to 200 per cent.”

This ALL case study shows how student data is used to personalise teaching and target students’ needs, while enabling students to track their own growth.

While an average Australian student learning from the textbook will grow 0.6 maths grade levels each year, the average growth for a student using Maths Pathway is 1.2 grade levels.

“At the start of the program the students do a diagnostic assessment to identify their strengths and weaknesses. The program then allocates worksheets based on their weaknesses, in order to build up those foundation skills before we add on higher level tasks,” Goodman said.

“Teachers use the Maths Pathway data to set individual classwork at the ‘Goldilocks zone of learning’ – not too hard, not too easy – just right.

“I might have one student learning about place value, one on algebra, one on something else because that’s what they’re ready for. Our teachers love the data provided by Maths Pathway because they can identify issues and work with small groups more effectively.”

Maths Pathway co-founder Justin Matthys explains that the key focus of the program is the amount of growth that students display, not whether they’re at a particular point at a particular time in the year.

“What we care about is not how much work the student has done, it’s about how much new maths have they learned. Students who were learning nothing are now learning something, and a lot of them are learning an awful lot.”

Maths Pathway got going in July 2013 when the two founders quit their teaching jobs, after 18 months of preliminary work, and set up in a shed. The first schools signed on that September, including Emerald Secondary College and Lavalla Catholic College in Traralgon. According to the Maths Pathway website, 109 schools, 912 teachers and more than 22,000 students are now using the system.