It is likely future generations will need to be prepared with skills that provide the agility and flexibility to embrace more than one career. Maths gives that flexibility.
Now is the time to make maths an option so you are at the top of the Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) wave that’s about to hit.
However, despite more conversations about the exciting applications and growing industry demand for mathematical capability, engagement is slipping. Only 6.9 per cent of year 12 girls and 12.2 of boys participated in higher level mathematics in 2017.
Australia needs to rewrite the conversations we have with our students, our children and each other.
Here are some of the common excuses that we hear for not pursuing maths:
Maths is hard. Sure, it is hard sometimes. Anything worthwhile usually is. The problems maths will solve are the hardest we have faced. Mathematics and statistics can power solutions to protect the environment, ensure the sustainability of our cities, secure food and water supplies, develop smarter transport and housing and transform healthcare. Data even drives the future of Aussie athletes.
You have to have a maths brain to study maths. Anyone can learn mathematics. A little bit each day, some support from a friend who knows a bit about it and a confident attitude can all help. It is all in the mindset.
I don’t want to go to university. If you want to be a tradesperson in demand, get your maths skills in good shape. If you want to work outdoors, in the fitness industry or in sales – you need to be quick with numbers.
There are no jobs in maths. A job website search won’t come up with many jobs for mathematicians, that’s true. Look for analyst, researcher or data scientist and suddenly there are thousands of opportunities.
The AMSI Choose Maths careers resources support conversations to change public perceptions of mathematics and statistics. Students see that mathematically capable professionals contribute to the largest corporations in Australia as analysts, engineers, scientists and traders. Maths is also a powerful enabler for artists, game designers, architects, pilots, business leaders, roboticists and surgeons.
This year marks 50 years since we first put a human on the moon. As illustrated by the movie, Hidden Figures, maths played an important role in this historical feat. In fact, Australian astronaut Paul Scully-Power is a mathematician.
Janine Sprakel is the schools program manager at the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute and the project director for CHOOSEMATHS.