The following report adds to the data previously collected by Frank Barrington, detailing the Year 12 enrollment figures in mathematical studies in Australia. The data includes the participation rate for all states (VIC, QLD, NSW, SA, WA and TAS) and territories (ACT and NT).

The number of students completing Year 12 has been steadily increasing in Australia. During the last ten years it has grown by approximately 15% and in 2017 it reached its highest ever with over 230,000 students (231500) completing their Year 12. Of this cohort 51.8% were female and 48.2% were male. There were less than 0.02% of students identifying as Gender X so, for the purpose of this report, we have only recorded gendered data for male and female.

Previous reports have classified the various mathematical studies offered in Australian as Advanced, Intermediate and Elementary. To avoid any confusion between these categories and the new Advanced Mathematics study offered in NSW, we will henceforth refer to Higher, Intermediate and Elementary. The Higher level is representative of the Australia Curriculum Level D, Intermediate represents Level C and Elementary combines both Levels B and A.


1. Higher and Intermediate Participation Rates

In many states a student enrolled in a Higher level study also has to enroll in an Intermediate level study. The data below represents the highest level that students were enrolled in i.e., an Intermediate student is one who were enrolled in a Level C study and as not enrolled in a Level D study.

The NUMBER of Australian Higher mathematics (Level D) students were:


The NUMBER of Australian Intermediate mathematics (Level C) students were:



The total number of students enrolled in both Level D and Level C studies increased in 2017. However, as the total population of students completing Year 12 also increased, therefore this meant that the percentage of students undertaking mathematics at a Higher level actually decreased from 9.5% in 2016 to 9.4% in 2017. This is the lowest level recorded in more than twenty years.

The percentage of students studying at the Intermediate level increased slightly from 19.4% in 2016 to 19.5% in 2017.

Altogether, only 28.9% of the population studied mathematics to at least level C in 2017, compared to 31.2% in 2008. This equates to approximately 5300 fewer students.

Download PDF of Year 12 mathematics students in Australia – last ten years

2. Higher Gender Split

In 2017 only 37.8% of the students undertaking a Higher level mathematics study were female, which is a stark comparison to the fact that there was a larger proportion of females (51.8%) completing Year 12.

The female participation rate for Higher mathematics studies was 6.9% in 2017, which is a decrease from the rate of 7.0% in 2016. In contrast the male participation rate increased slightly from 12.1% in 2016 to 12.2% in 2017.

Download PDF graph of students studying higher mathematics

3. Intermediate Gender Split

The overall participation rate for students studying Intermediate mathematics increased slightly to 19.5% in 2017, and there were differences in the pattern across the genders. For females the participation rate increased from 18.3% in 2016 to 20.0% in 2017. This is the highest level of participation for females in the last ten years. In contrast, the male participation rate decreased from 20.6% in 2016 to 18.9 % in 2017, which is the lowest level of participation in the last ten years.

Download PDF graph of students studying intermediate mathematics

It is also notable that this is the first time when the number of females studying Intermediate mathematics has been larger than the number of males, with 53% of the Intermediate enrollments being female in 2017.

The NUMBER of female and male Australian Intermediate mathematics:


4. Elementary Participation Rates

In 2017 there were 138, 677 Australian Elementary mathematics enrolments, which increased from 136,114 in 2016. Of these enrollments in 2017, 50.7% were female and 49.3% were male.

The Elementary category includes studies equivalent to both Level B and Level A in the national curriculum. In addition, some studies count towards the students’ ATAR scores and some do not.

In 2017 there were 108, 950 enrollments at Level B. 52.2% of these were female and 47.8% were male. Whereas, at Level A, out of the 29,727 enrollments only 45.2% were female and 54.8% were male.

In these Elementary enrollments, there are a number of students who undertake more than one Elementary study and also some who undertake an Elementary study in addition to an Intermediate study. Presently, there is not enough information available to make an accurate assessment of the proportion of students who would be considered as Elementary i.e. undertake one or more Elementary studies, but no Intermediate studies. However, the number of Elementary studies that were completed in 2017 compared to the overall number of Year 12 students, is consistent with previous years. This means that the past estimate of 52% being the participation rate for the Elementary studies is probably still quite reasonable.

Susan James
26 Feb 2019

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