Publication Date



Mathematics anxiety, Student engagement, Mathematics achievement, Gender differences, Academic persistence, Mathematics value, Subject selection (Students), Frameworks, Primary school mathematics, Secondary school mathematics


The Mathematics Anxiety and Engagement Strategy (MAES) was established by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) in 2018 in response to declining mathematics achievement and participation among Australian students. Findings from the 2022 cycle of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) show that 15-year-old students in Australia had significantly lower levels of mathematical literacy than students in 2003 (De Bortoli et al, 2023). The 2022 results also showed that male students outperformed female students and only 30 percent of students from more disadvantaged backgrounds achieved the National Proficient Standard in mathematics compared to 72 percent of students from more advantaged backgrounds. In 2022, the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) reported that the number of Australian students enrolling in one or more mathematics subjects in Year 12 was continuing to decline (Wienk, 2022). There was also an increasing gender gap, with AMSI noting that only 38 percent of students enrolled in more-advanced mathematics subjects were female. Other research suggests that belief in mathematical ability may be a key factor influencing female students’ decision to enrol in upper secondary STEM subjects (Watt et al, 2017). These findings highlight that improving mathematics engagement could be a key lever to addressing gender equity in STEM and to addressing socioeconomic disadvantage. The aim in developing MAES was to help counter declining mathematics achievement and participation by identifying and removing significant barriers to students’ positive engagement with mathematics. MAES uses an innovative, multidisciplinary approach that is informed by research in education, psychology, and neuroscience. Namely, MAES offers key research findings in a format that is useable for educators and policymakers. To guide the direction of MAES, an Advisory Board was established that includes academics and education stakeholders from around Australia.

Place of Publication

Camberwell, Australia


Australian Council for Educational Research