The report from the Royal Society Te Apārangi's panel on mathematics education in New Zealand schools has now been published, and the findings make for worrying reading.
Principals know change is overdue and have been eagerly anticipating the report of the panel's deliberations to sketch a way forward.
Chair of the panel, Massey University's Distinguished Professor Gaven Martin, has indicated that, "even if all  recommendations were taken up, it would take a decade to see results". And therein lies the problem. Young people cannot wait 10 years to see substantive progress on mathematics achievement.
We must act now to address the current flaws in our mathematics teaching and learning.
How does the report assist teachers who will be again taking mathematics lessons as the new term begins?
The report is an excellent summation of the macro factors influencing our slide in mathematics achievement. It offers a well-argued case but does not detail what specific improvements are needed to lift the practice of primary school teachers.
Yes, ability grouping is damaging and must be eliminated from our classrooms; yes, a genuine drive to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi will enable teaching to be culturally sustaining; and, of course, a suite of carefully designed nationally coherent resources is important (although before we get to a suite, let's start with one nationally coherent resource); and yes, we need teachers' professional learning to be rescued from the deeply flawed, market-driven approach that currently exists; and national leadership by expert sector-based mathematics teachers and principals is urgently required, although of course this will be subject to Government provision in Budget 2022.
But what about the classroom and the practice of teaching mathematics?
The report offers limited but welcome commentary on the Ministry of Education's Numeracy Project, the dominant mathematics education approach since it was introduced in the early 2000s, which has led to negative consequences for many students who simply struggle with the emphasis on mental gymnastics when a simple taught and practised procedure would help grow the sense of capability a learner needs to persevere and flourish.
Anxious to garner expert advice on immediate changes to primary school mathematics teaching, mathematics expert Dr Audrey Tan was invited to speak at the New Zealand Principals' Federation Conference in August. Her presentation was enthusiastically received and downloaded by close to a thousand principals at the conclusion of the conference.
Key to her message was a simple recipe for rapid improvement: reduce the emphasis on mental strategies and increase student confidence and understanding through explicit teaching and plenty of meaningful practice.
Principals have been actively implementing these changes and will continue to do so at pace.
Helping young people discover the pleasure of being successful in mathematics is a key goal in our response to the slide in achievement. As Dr Tan has emphasised, student confidence is a critical component in developing competence and understanding, and the gateway to higher-order problem-solving. Let's help our young people love mathematics again.
Principals need Government to deliver on the recommendations in the Royal Society Te
Apārangi's report so that success in mathematics can be experienced by all students, but there is much that can be done to facilitate immediate success in the classroom. I am far from despondent about change.
This past week, I met with Ellen MacGregor-Reid, Deputy Secretary Early Learning and Student Achievement, to discuss the Ministry of Education's response to our mathematics achievement challenges and the Royal Society Te Apārangi's report.
I was heartened to hear that a mathematics strategy plan has now been established and will shortly be considered by Government.
Moving slowly isn't an option. Principals look forward to the establishment of a roadmap to address mathematics achievement with matched resourcing, support, and nationally coherent professional development.
• Perry Rush is president of the New Zealand Principals' Federation.