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The standards for mathematics are statements about what students should know and be able to do in order to meet the demands of The New Zealand Curriculum. They reflect the complexity and challenge of the problems and contexts that students meet within the mathematics and statistics learning area of The New Zealand Curriculum and within other learning areas that require the use of mathematical and statistical thinking.

The New Zealand Curriculum establishes an expectation of progress through curriculum levels over time. The standards for mathematics set out what can reasonably be expected of most students by the end of each period or year of schooling, from the first year of school through to the end of year 8. However, students start at different points and progress at different rates. That is why, when interpreting achievement, it is important to consider the rate of progress as well as the expected standard.

The New Zealand Curriculum and the standards for mathematics complement each other. The curriculum drives teaching, and the standards support teachers to assess their students’ achievement in relation to the curriculum. Together, the curriculum and the standards will play a vital role in the development of students’ 'ability and inclination to use mathematics effectively – at home, at work, and in the community' (Numeracy Development Projects’ definition of numeracy).

Current data about the numeracy of adults in the workforce gives cause for concern. Significant proportions of New Zealand students in the upper primary years do not currently meet the expectations. Unless this situation is addressed, many of these students will not achieve in mathematics at a level that is adequate to meet the demands of their adult lives.

The purpose of the standards for mathematics is to promote quality teaching and learning in every New Zealand classroom and success for all students. They will assist teachers and schools to monitor student progress and the success of teaching and learning programmes, to decide upon next steps for learning with students, to target students who need extra assistance, and to report to students, their families and whānau, agencies, and the community.

The structure and development of the standards

The mathematics standards are structured according to the strands of the mathematics and statistics learning area of The New Zealand Curriculum. Other options for structuring the standards included mathematical processes (Mathematics in the New Zealand Curriculum, pp. 23–29), significant mathematical and statistical ideas, and aspects of effective instructional practice (Effective pedagogy in mathematics/pāngarau: Best evidence synthesis iteration [BES] PDF 2.7MB, pp. 56–88).

This decision on how to structure the standards was made for three reasons:

  • The standards need to align with mathematics programmes in schools, which are based on the mathematics and statistics learning area of The New Zealand Curriculum.
  • The assessment tools commonly used in schools are aligned with the structure of The New Zealand Curriculum.
  • Feedback on the draft standards indicated teachers’ strong preference for a strand-based structure for the standards.

Each standard states the level of The New Zealand Curriculum that students will be achieving at and specifies a number of expectations under the strands number and algebra, geometry and measurement, and statistics. The development of these expectations drew strongly on the research base underpinning the achievement objectives of The New Zealand Curriculum.

However, differentiating between achievement at each school year required more tightly focused statements than the achievement objectives at curriculum levels 1–4. Developing these statements involved considering:

  • research evidence that documents smaller progressions than those defined by the achievement objectives
  • assessment data from sources such as NEMP, The New Zealand Curriculum exemplars, and PATs that highlight task variables that affect the difficulty of mathematical problems
  • evidence from the use of normed assessment tools within the Numeracy Development Projects
  • case studies of successful implementation within the Numeracy Development Projects.

Identifying expectations for each school year also involved examining current levels of achievement by New Zealand students and international expectations as defined by the curriculums and standards of other countries. Research on the numeracy demands of everyday life and the workplace was also taken into account.

Published on: 13 Oct 2009