Maths and the city: using numbers skills IRL

Graduates with data analytics know-how will find their skills listed in Australian job ads over any other skills. Image: Shutterstock

The National Skills Commission has put jobs in data science at the top of its emerging occupations list. But there are loads of other careers that use maths every day

Of all the STEM elements (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) we often have the most trouble imagining what a career in maths could look like. But what’s even harder is picturing how numbers skills can be used in jobs that aren’t particularly promoted as maths based. Here, we take a look at some of them.

Unit conversion

Solar panels collect the sun’s rays and turn them into energy. The rays get sent to an inverter, which takes the DC (direct current) energy and turns it into AC (alternate current) energy – this is what houses and buildings use to power themselves.


Construction workers use trig to calculate the best way to build projects that are safe and stable. They need it for everything from making walls parallel and perpendicular to getting roof inclination right.

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The VCR (volume capacity ratio) measures the level of congestion on a road based on traffic volume and road capacity. This helps transport authorities figure out ideal speed limits, as well as make adjustments to ease congestion.


If you unlock your smartphone using your face, you’re using maths! Facial recognition relies on biometrics – body measurements and calculations related to human characteristics – to verify identity.


Weather forecasting is all about probability, especially when it comes to rain. The probability of precipitation (the chance of rain) is calculated from the product of two variables – confidence and area affected.

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Pilots use geometry to calculate angles for taking off and landing. They need to get this right to avoid damage to the plane and, well, crashing!

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Supply chain management (the management of the flow of goods and services) uses AI to help with capacity planning, route optimisation and data analysis. This saves businesses time and money.


Loved by few, used by many! Logarithms are used to measure the pH levels of different bodies of water to see how acidic they are.


Ever wondered how your tablet or device just so happens to select the most relevant ads and news for you? That’s the work of algorithms, based on what you’ve been
clicking on and where you’re located.

The movement of an elevator is also determined by a simple algorithm. The algorithm decides when the elevator should stop, travel in the same direction, or change direction according to requests (AKA people pressing buttons).

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Maths & Data 2021.

Louise Meers

Author: Louise Meers

Louise is the production editor for Careers with STEM. She has a journalism degree from the University of Technology, Sydney and has spent over a decade writing for youth. She is passionate about inspiring young people to achieve their biggest goals and build a better future.


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