A new study into classroom practices, led by Dr Steve Murphy, has found that extensive research in the past has failed to uncover how teachers can remedy poor student engagement and perform well in maths.

More than 3000 research papers were reviewed over the course of the study, but only 26 contained detailed steps for teachers to improve both student engagement and results in maths.

Murphy said the scarcity of research involving young children was concerning.

“Children’s engagement in maths begins to decline from the beginning of primary school while their mathematical identity begins to solidify,” Murphy said.

“We need more research that investigates achievement and engagement together to give teachers good advice on how to engage students in mathematics and perform well.

La Trobe University, Murphy explained, has developed a model for research that can achieve this.

While teachers play an important role in making decisions that impact the learning environment, he said parents are also highly influential in children’s maths education journeys.

“We often hear parents say, ‘it’s OK, I was never good at maths’, but they’d never say that to their child about reading or writing,” Murphy said.

La Trobe’s School of Education is determined to improve mathematical outcomes for students, and argue it’s an important school subject that is highly applicable in today’s technologically rich society.

Previous research led by Murphy found many parents were unfamiliar with the modern ways of teaching maths and lacked self-confidence to independently assist their children learning maths during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The implication for parents is that you don’t need to be a great mathematician to support your children in maths, you just need to be willing to learn a little about how schools teach maths today,” Murphy said.

“It’s not all bad news for educators and parents. Parents don’t need to teach maths; they just need to support what their children’s teacher is doing.

“Keeping positive, being encouraging and interested in their children’s maths learning goes a long way.”

The two research papers can be read here and here.​