AN EASIER maths subject will be introduced in years 11 and 12 under the national curriculum, raising fears of an exodus from the more difficult maths courses.
The Mathematical Association of NSW said there is concern the new subject - Essential Mathematics - will attract many able students turned off the less interesting and more difficult courses.
In a submission last year the association said Essential Maths was suited to students who learned maths at a slower rate and had not fully mastered the national curriculum to year 10.
It said some of its members believed Essential Mathematics should not contribute to the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, as more ''able'' students may be attracted to it for ''easy reward'' rather than attempting more challenging courses of more value in later studies.
Victoria has also warned that a ''clear risk'' of the new subject is a shift in enrolments from more demanding maths subjects.
''This would run counter to current policy settings in Victoria, and indeed nationally, which are designed to produce exactly the opposite impact,'' the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority submitted.
State and federal education ministers endorsed the senior secondary national curriculum for maths, English, science and history late last year as the common base for year 11 and 12 courses. While their national curriculum for the first year of school to year 10 must be substantially implemented by the end of this year, no time line has been set for the senior years.
There are four proposed national senior maths courses: Essential Mathematics - which focuses on using maths in daily lives - General Mathematics, Mathematical Methods and Specialist Mathematics.
Australia's chief scientist, Ian Chubb, was commissioned by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, last year to recommend ways of improving the country's declining performance in maths and science. He warned secondary students were switching from advanced and intermediate maths to the more elementary version and recommended cash incentives for maths and science graduates to become teachers.
A spokesman for the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority said nothing stopped the states from continuing to offer their own courses.