Passion for maths: Bree Bailey named education student of the year

Published in the February 2017 issue

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Being a mathematics teacher who inspires high school students to see the magic in numbers is the goal of Southern Cross University education student Bree Bailey, who has won the national 2016 Pearson Student of the Year Award.

“I want to make maths interesting and relevant, showing students its contemporary uses,” Bree said. “Maths shapes everything in our lives, even the stuff they enjoy – like social media – which is driven by algorithms and computer programs.”

Dr Christos Markopoulos, a senior lecturer in mathematics education in Southern Cross University’s School of Education, nominated Bree for the award.

“I am thrilled she is the winner among all Australian universities,” he said. “Bree is a highly dedicated student. She was very committed through the session and followed the study guide closely. Interestingly, she was an online student, living far away from any of our campuses.”

Bree Bailey with daughter Hope, a week before giving birth to second daughter Delilah.

Bree Bailey with daughter Hope, a week before giving birth to second daughter Delilah.

Bree said she aims to model her teaching style on a maths teacher who had the greatest impact on her learning.

“Maths is the sort of subject that people get or they don’t – and a lot of it comes down to the teacher. Up until Year 10 I was always good at maths but never excelled at it. Then in Year 11 I had a different teacher, with a different style of teaching, and suddenly everything clicked. He made me want to study maths. He made me see the interesting side of mathematics that I hadn’t considered before. Hopefully I can be that teacher to students in the future.”

The Pearson Student of the Year Award is presented to Australian students who have demonstrated outstanding effort in seven fields of study. Students are nominated by an academic from their course and submit a short video presentation.

Bree won the award in the Arts and Education category.

Dr Markopoulos was Bree’s teacher for Mathematics and Numeracy, a first-year foundational mathematics course for education students.

He said Bree was the first student he’d nominated for the Pearson awards.

“Some students seem to struggle with the content mainly due to their previous mathematical experience,” he said. “Bree managed to organise her time and be very focused throughout the session. She was really engaged in all unit tasks and additional resources in order to improve her mathematical understanding.”

To improve their mathematical competence and confidence, Dr Markopoulos provides students with the Pearson MyMathLab online resources kit, a supplementary resource platform which includes hundreds of mathematical questions for practice.

“Interestingly, Bree completed every single task on MyMathLab, roughly more than 1200 mathematical questions,” he said. “In addition, her performance on the final exam for the unit was outstanding – 50 out of 50 – the best ever!

“I am honoured to have students like Bree.”

Bree is completing a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education (Primary/Secondary), majoring in mathematics, fulltime via online study. She lives in Rutherford, in the Hunter Valley near Newcastle, with her husband and two young daughters.

“It was a massive honour that Christos thought to nominate me,” said Bree who will use her $1000 cash prize to offset the costs of textbooks and childcare while on placement later in the year.

“Being a national award, I thought it was such a long shot, I almost didn’t enter my video. I’m so honoured to have been selected.”

For Bree, the Pearson award comes on the back of receiving a NSW Department of Education Teacher Education Scholarship for the remaining three years of her degree. The scholarship, aimed at future teachers of mathematics, science and selected Technological and Applied Studies (TAS) subjects, requires graduates to relocate to a location of need within NSW for a minimum of three years.

“We used to live in Central West NSW, which is one of the locations of need, so we know lots of people out that way. I’m looking forward to the opportunity when I graduate from Southern Cross University,” said Bree.

Bree was full of praise for the University’s online teaching degree.

“My plan was to study online with Southern Cross University for a year and then put my daughter in daycare while I attended my local university,” she said. “But SCU is such a good university and the support for online education is wonderful. My concerns around support, keeping up with my studies and staying motivated haven’t been an issue at all.”

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