"What jobs can maths get you? Highschool teacher?" The number of times I've heard these words makes my blood boil. It's up there with "I used to be good at maths but I thought there were no in jobs in it." Mathematics graduates are used in every field imaginable including IT, finance, consulting, accounting, medical, engineering, processing/manufacturing, telecommunications, defence and mining*.
And that's only the industries that employ you purely to use maths. Companies employ maths students (both applied and pure) because they show intelligence, good communication skills and superior problem-solving abilities. Thus, it is no surprise that maths teachers and professors are lamenting about the appalling drop in mathematically equiped students in recent years across Australia. The latest developent
in NSW, who are usually quite good at maths, is shameful:Year 12 students in NSW are choosing a less challenging mathematics course because it can get them a higher university entrance score than a more difficult course, mathematics experts say.
The scaling anomaly had contributed to a steep decline in the number of HSC students studying mathematics at an intermediate level, threatening a national shortage of scientists, teachers, computer and finance experts.
The International Centre of Excellence for Education in Mathematics will publish the new findings today, showing the proportion of NSW students studying 2-unit maths dropped from 30 per cent in 1995 to 20 per cent in 2004.
Nationally, the proportion of students studying intermediate and advanced maths subjects fell from 41.3 per cent to 34.3 per cent over the same period.
Uni of NSW is considered to have one of the best maths schools in the world (they beat Oxford and MIT in one ranking). I wonder how they will fair in a few years time? Numerous lecturers and tutors (including myself) are deeply disappointed at the poor maths skills of the current uni students. Teachers, according to anecdotal evidence, seem intent on reducing the mathematical content in highschools. Why is this? Probably because many highschool teachers aren't that good at maths, comparatively speaking, and thus don't truly understand it.
Another reason for the poor numbers in maths students, I believe, is the guidance counsellors in highschools. When was the last time you met a guidance counsellor trained in higher-level maths? Simple. You haven't. In QLD people are under the false illusion that Maths C is more challenging than Maths B. Rubbish. Probably the other way around if anything. I have a friend studying radiation therapy who wishes he had studied Maths C to illustrate its benefits.
How is Australia suppose to attract foreign investment with a lack of maths skills. There's no shortage of people who can write an essay (resonably well) in this country (or serve food and drinks for that matter). Understanding a problem with a tad of maths, well that's another matter altogether.*Mmmm, last time I checked there was a *little* boom in this area in Oz.