Dr Christine Mae, Sydney Catholic Schools (SCS) Specialist in Mathematics and Numeracy K-12, has been recognised in the 2020 The Educator Higher Education Hot List. This puts her among Australia’s top 50 movers and shakers in the higher education sector, and we couldn’t be prouder of her. But you’ll never guess her first career choice.

Who nominated you for the Educator’s Hot List?

My colleagues Andrea de Carvalho, Angela D’Angelo and Bianca Manton at SCS and it means so much to me. Being nominated for an award by my colleagues, who I hold in high esteem, has given me a strong sense of purpose and value. 

How have your colleagues responded to your recognition?

The generous recognition and affirmation of my colleagues and leaders, including our Executive Director, Tony Farley, and Director of Education and Research, Kate O’Brien, as well as principals and teachers, is overwhelming for me. 

How did you end up in a career in mathematics?

I started my teaching career as a music teacher, and my main instrument is the piano. The catalyst in my shift from music to mathematics was the experiences of my four children, who were very capable but not always well-taught in their mathematics studies. I changed my career pathway because I believe that a quality mathematics education should not be a matter of luck we should guarantee it! 

I am passionate about working in partnership with schools to improve mathematics education for all students. 

In the video above, Dr Mae explains her hopes for 2021.

How has your work influenced SCS’ students and teachers?

Over the last few years we have seen an improvement in student performance in NAPLAN, as well as an increase in the proportion of students studying higher levels of mathematics. These results are a testament to the students, teachers and leaders who all work hard to find ways to improve teaching and learning and strive towards excellence.

My role is to know the research, shape strategy and advocate for the resourcing that schools need to lead improvement in mathematics education.

One of my most meaningful moments is when teachers take the time to write to me, or my colleagues, and tell us how we have impacted on how they feel about themselves, and about doing and teaching mathematics.

What has been your greatest achievement in your career so far? 

Witnessing the increase of confidence, knowledge and enjoyment of mathematics in both students and teachers. Other achievements have included: the outstanding research paper prize from the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia, and acting as a delegate to Science Meets Parliament, among others.

Tell us about the 2020 Mathematics Extension 2 (MX2) Student Forum you helped organise at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, and the importance of such events to students and teachers learning?

The Mathematics Extension 2 (MX2) Student Forum is part of a strategy to connect students and teachers involved in the most challenging mathematics course for the HSC with each other and expert presenters. Coming together to learn and compare techniques and approaches to problem-solving is central to our values of collaboration, curiosity and excellence. 

Our students tell us that coming together with other students and experts who can provide new ways of thinking is a very valuable experience. 

What are some of the top qualities needed in leaders of mathematics and numeracy?

In my experience, mathematics and numeracy leaders are most effective when they have the skill and confidence to walk into any classroom, engage the class and model quality teaching that impacts student learning. 


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