Structure of General Mathematics

Structure of General Mathematics

General Mathematics is organised into four units. The topics in each unit broaden students’ mathematical experience and provide different scenarios for incorporating mathematical arguments and problem solving. The units provide a blending of algebraic, geometric and statistical thinking. In this subject there is a progression of content, applications, level of sophistication and abstraction.

Unit 1 Unit 2 Unit 3 Unit 4
Consumer arithmetic
Algebra and matrices
Shape and measurement
Univariate data analysis and the statistical investigation process
Applications of trigonometry
Linear equations and their graphs
Bivariate data analysis
Growth and decay in sequences
Graphs and networks
Time series analysis
Loans, investments and annuities
Networks and decision mathematics


Unit 1 has three topics: ‘Consumer arithmetic’, ‘Algebra and matrices’, and ‘Shape and measurement’. ‘Consumer arithmetic’ reviews the concepts of rate and percentage change in the context of earning and managing money, and provides fertile ground for the use of spreadsheets. ‘Algebra and matrices’ continues the F-10 study of algebra and introduces the new topic of matrices. ‘Shape and measurement’ extends the knowledge and skills students developed in the F-10 curriculum with the concept of similarity and associated calculations involving simple and compound geometric shapes. The emphasis in this topic is on applying these skills in a range of practical contexts, including those involving three-dimensional shapes.

Unit 2 has three topics: ‘Univariate data analysis and the statistical investigation process’, ‘Linear equations and their graphs’, and ‘Applications of trigonometry’. ‘Univariate data analysis and the statistical investigation process’ develops students’ ability to organise and summarise univariate data in the context of conducting a statistical investigation. . ‘Applications of trigonometry’ extends students’ knowledge of trigonometry to solve practical problems involving non-right-angled triangles in both two and three dimensions, including problems involving the use of angles of elevation and depression, and bearings in navigation ‘Linear equations and their graphs’ uses linear equations and straight-line graphs, as well as linear-piecewise and step graphs, to model and analyse practical situations

Unit 3 has three topics: ‘Bivariate data analysis’, ‘Growth and decay in sequences’, and ‘Graphs and networks’. ‘Bivariate data analysis’ introduces students to some methods for identifying, analysing and describing associations between pairs of variables, including using the least-squares method as a tool for modelling and analysing linear associations. The content is to be taught within the framework of the statistical investigation process. ‘Growth and decay in sequences’ employs recursion to generate sequences that can be used to model and investigate patterns of growth and decay in discrete situations. These sequences find application in a wide range of practical situations, including modelling the growth of a compound interest investment, the growth of a bacterial population or the decrease in the value of a car over time. Sequences are also essential to understanding the patterns of growth and decay in loans and investments that are studied in detail in Unit 4. ‘Graphs and networks’ introduces students to the language of graphs and the way in which graphs, represented as a collection of points and interconnecting lines, can be used to analyse everyday situations such as a rail or social network.

Unit 4 has three topics: ‘Time series analysis’, ‘Loans, investments and annuities’, and ‘Networks and decision mathematics’. ‘Time series analysis’ continues students’ study of statistics by introducing them to the concepts and techniques of time series analysis. The content is to be taught within the framework of the statistical investigation process. ‘Loans and investments’ aims to provide students with sufficient knowledge of financial mathematics to solve practical problems associated with taking out or refinancing a mortgage and making investments. ‘Networks and decision mathematics’ uses networks to model and aid decision making in practical situations.

Organisation of achievement standards

The achievement standards in Mathematics have been organised into two dimensions: ‘Concepts and Techniques’ and ‘Reasoning and Communication’. These two dimensions reflect students’ understanding and skills in the study of mathematics.

The achievement standards in Mathematics have been organised into two dimensions: ‘Concepts and Techniques’ and ‘Reasoning and Communication’. These two dimensions reflect students’ understanding and skills in the study of mathematics.

Senior secondary achievement standards have been written for each Australian Curriculum senior secondary subject. The achievement standards provide an indication of typical performance at five different levels (corresponding to grades A to E) following the completion of study of senior secondary Australian Curriculum content for a pair of units. They are broad statements of understanding and skills that are best read and understood in conjunction with the relevant unit content. They are structured to reflect key dimensions of the content of the relevant learning area. They will be eventually accompanied by illustrative and annotated samples of student work/ performance/ responses.

The achievement standards will be refined empirically through an analysis of samples of student work and responses to assessment tasks: they cannot be maintained a priori without reference to actual student performance. Inferences can be drawn about the quality of student learning on the basis of observable differences in the extent, complexity, sophistication and generality of the understanding and skills typically demonstrated by students in response to well-designed assessment activities and tasks.

In the short term, achievement standards will inform assessment processes used by curriculum, assessment and certifying authorities for course offerings based on senior secondary Australian Curriculum content.

ACARA has made reference to a common syntax (as a guide, not a rule) in constructing the achievement standards across the learning areas. The common syntax that has guided development is as follows:

  1. Given a specified context (as described in the curriculum content)
  2. With a defined level of consistency/accuracy (the assumption that each level describes what the student does well, competently, independently, consistently)
  3. Students perform a specified action (described through a verb)
  4. In relation to what is valued in the curriculum (specified as the object or subject)
  5. With a defined degree of sophistication, difficulty, complexity (described as an indication of quality)

Terms such as ‘analyse’ and ‘describe’ have been used to specify particular action but these can have everyday meanings that are quite general. ACARA has therefore associated these terms with specific meanings that are defined in the senior secondary achievement standards glossary and used precisely and consistently across subject areas.

Role of technology

It is assumed that students will be taught the Senior Secondary Australian Curriculum: Mathematics subjects with an extensive range of technological applications and techniques. If appropriately used, these have the potential to enhance the teaching and learning of mathematics. However, students also need to continue to develop skills that do not depend on technology. The ability to choose when and when not to use some form of technology, and the ability to work flexibly with technology, are important skills in these subjects.