Date of Submission



The impetus for this study was an observed decline in Year 10 students choosing higher level upper-secondary mathematics courses at a school in metropolitan Brisbane, Queensland. This problem has been the focus of similar research in Australia and internationally for over three generations, and despite numerous studies and reports leading to many recommendations, the problem continues. Further research regarding this problem is necessary as there are important practical implications for the students themselves, with 75% of careers in the 21st century identified as requiring skills acquired through tertiary courses that are underpinned by science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), all of which are enabled by higher level upper-secondary mathematics courses. Extending this problem from personal gain and opportunity for students to the wider community, it is evident that more individuals are needed to engage in STEM studies and careers to contribute to the innovation necessary to make Australia internationally competitive and economically prosperous. With this context in mind, the research question for this study was: What are the main factors that influence Year 10 students’ upper-secondary mathematics course choice? Moving away from the retrospective approaches normally adopted to a real-time prospective approach, this study explored the decline in Year 10 students choosing higher level upper-secondary mathematics courses using survey, drawing on the perspectives of 423 Year 10 students at three metropolitan Brisbane schools prior to making their formal subject selection later that year. Quantitative analysis indicated that the main factors influencing upper-secondary mathematics course choice are Out-of-field Mathematics Teachers, Attitudes to Mathematics, Gender, and Career Intentions. The critical finding was that Out-of-field Mathematics Teachers had a statistically significant influence on students’ upper-secondary mathematics course choice. This represents a new contribution to the research literature that has important implications for teacher registration policy in Australia as well as internationally. Also, there are implications for universities to ensure that more mathematics teachers are trained and greater incentives are provided for mathematically capable students to become mathematics teachers.

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


330 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Education and Arts