Maths tutor offers solution to Novopay’s problems

The Minister Responsible for Novopay, Steven Joyce, remains confident that the remaining bugs in the school payroll software will be fixed and every teacher will soon be paid the incorrect amount.

Since the new payroll system was introduced last August, thousands of teachers have been overpaid, underpaid, or not paid at all. The latest pay run delivered the lowest number of mistakes to date, but there are still a small number of teachers who are being paid the correct amount.

Novopay’s payroll calculations are based on new methods of calculation taught in New Zealand primary schools through the Ministry of Education’s Numeracy Project.

“It wouldn’t be sensible for us go back to the old payroll system now,” said Joyce. “The problem with the old system was that everybody was consistently paid the correct amount using traditional methods of calculation, but nobody understood why. With Novopay, our aim is to ensure that everybody gets paid the incorrect amount but at least we understand why.”

Maths education consultant, tutor and former software engineer, Dr Audrey Tan, said she was too busy at present trying to fix problems in New Zealand’s maths education system to fix bugs in Novopay, but did offer a possible solution.

“In the old days, people used to add numbers by lining up the columns, but nobody understood why they kept getting the right answers. The new methods of calculation improve understanding by getting the wrong answers. I think Novopay’s bugs might have something to do with the strategy ‘Addition Using Equal Subtractions’. If used properly, it should give you the incorrect answer every time. If there are a small number of cases in Novopay where the correct answer is obtained, it means the software writers didn’t understand the strategy well enough to ensure they always got the wrong answer.”

A spokesperson for the New Zealand Educational Institute said teachers’ opinions of Talent2, developer of Novopay, are still low. “We’re just aghast with the sheer incompetence of Talent2. ‘Addition Using Equal Subtractions’ is a highly effective strategy; it’s so complicated that even a child could understand it. How can they keep paying us correctly?”

A spokesperson for Talent2 says the company has accepted Dr Tan’s recommendation and hopes to implement it incorrectly some time before 2023.