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High school students are avoiding maths – here’s the case for sticking with it

Take it from these superstars – it’s worth finishing high school maths!

Less than half of year 12 students are graduating with basic high school maths according to new data analysis from the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, which is bad news for Australia having enough qualified people for the many STEM careers on offer.

The analysis found enrolments in maths have not returned to levels seen pre-COVID. Enrolments in high-level maths have plummeted to an all-time low in the last three years, and just 6.4% of year 12 females studied higher maths in 2022.

High school maths is a prerequisite for many STEM degrees at uni, and basic maths is needed for many vocational education and trade courses too.

Teachers say when students start to find maths difficult (and many people do), they often assume they’re “just not a maths person”, when in reality anyone can be one.

“It’s just a matter of remembering different rules,” says high school maths teacher Zoe Land. “You wouldn’t be able to go into art straight away and produce a masterpiece. But if you’re interested in it and invested in it, you can do it,” she adds.

But don’t just take the word of teachers, take it from these superstars who use maths in their careers almost every day!

#1 Taylor Swift, singer

Image from Shutterstock

Rockstar Taylor Swift uses all kinds of codes to drop deets on new releases. These often involve maths (and her lucky number, 13). For example, her latest album was released on April 19, 2024. 19 + 4 + 2024 = 2047. 2 + 0 + 4 + 7 = 13. Maths FTW!

Plus, Taylor is surrounded by a team of maths professionals to help her career skyrocket, be it accountants to help manage her money or pilots using maths to fly her private jet to concerts.

#2 Emma Studerus, energy expert

As a senior forecasting system analyst at Energy Queensland, Emma uses her maths skills to help work out energy demand in the future. This is an even more important job as the world transitions to renewable energy like solar power.

#3 Jack Powers, healthcare statistician

Jack has gained experience working as a consultant in mining, sports, and health, using mathematics and programming to solve real-world problems. Right now he’s researching techniques to better prioritise patients on public elective surgery waiting lists.

#4 Paul Wu, sports systems statisitican

Paul Wu

Paul started life in aerospace engineering working on AI for unmanned aircraft. How cool is that?! His research has since used high-level maths and data analysis to predict performance in sporting events, like swimming relays at the international level.

You can hear more about Emma, Jack and Paul’s careers and why they stuck with maths at our STEM + X Maths webinar on May 29. Register now! 

And watch previous inspiring maths webinars on our YouTube channel.

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