Summing up the value of mathematics

Take a room full of mathematics teachers and pose them an arithmetic problem. What could go wrong?

Dr Finkel did just that when he addressed the annual conference of the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers in Brisbane in July, exploring the question of why maths is important for Australia’s future, and how to ensure young people and their families and carers understand the value of continuing to study advanced mathematics.

He also called on the Australian university sector to work with secondary school leaders to make sure that there was clear understanding of the required level of a student’s capabilities when entering tertiary education.

“Our universities need to indicate clearly to students what subjects are required to do well in a given course,” Dr Finkel said.

“[We also need to] reinstate the expectation of studying mathematics at intermediate or advanced levels, particularly for entry into mathematics-based courses such as physics, engineering, and all of the general science courses; as well as other disciplines that depend on mathematics, such as economics, commerce and architecture.”

Australian business leaders and academia are key stakeholders in the discussion on the importance of young people continuing to study mathematics, and have been calling for change to ensure skills are in place for future needs.

As part of the conference, Dr Finkel participated in an industry and business forum and lunch along with CSIRO Chief Scientist Dr Cathy Foley. This discussion focused on how industry leaders could improve their engagement with students and the education sector more broadly to explain the opportunities available to young people if they stick with maths.

“Mathematics encourages logical thought. It allows for the laying out of a problem and working through solutions; it trains you to make deductions from the learned assumptions of those who have gone before; and it encourages you to apply your knowledge to a wider world view. It’s a bit like being a Jedi master.”

The full speech is available here.

Dr Finkel addresses the 2019 annual Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers conference in Brisbane

Dr Finkel addresses the 2019 annual Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers conference in Brisbane