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The one question to consider before you quit maths

Considering quitting maths? This maths professor has some helpful advice

Michael Bode is a Professor and ARC Future Fellow at QUT’s School of Mathematical Sciences. So it might surprise you to hear him say he wasn’t a great mathematician at high school.

Speaking on Careers with STEM’s webinar on people combining maths with their passion to build their dream career, Michael has a powerful lesson for students who say ‘I’m no good at maths’.

“Everybody finds mathematics challenging and sometimes the only difference is whether people are willing to admit it.”

Michael says one of the biggest obstacles to becoming competent at maths is the common feeling of being incompetent at it. “As if the ability to do mathematics is some intrinsic thing that you’re born with or not, and you’re not a mathematics person versus you are a mathematics person.”

“The literature says there’s nothing innate about mathematics ability, but there is something really counterproductive in feeling like it’s impossible,” Michael says. “So stepping back and thinking: ‘Anyone can do mathematics and I’m not a person who can’t do mathematics’, is a hard thing to say but it’s actually true.”

In fact, and somewhat ironically, Michael says while maths is super useful when you leave school and university, you don’t actually need to be super competent at it to be successful, simply because so many people quit maths.

“I wasn’t a great mathematician in high school. I certainly wasn’t a great mathematician at university, but it turns out my openness to new ideas and to applying maths was more useful,” Michael says.

So if you’re struggling with maths, Michael’s advice is ignore the extent to which you find it challenging, and instead consider whether you are still drawn to it.

“If you feel like you want to move away from mathematics because you find it too hard you should first ask yourself: Do I find it interesting? Because if you do, I think it’s worth sticking with.”

Watch the full discussion with Michael, along with our other inspiring guests and fans of maths like QUT maths graduate and Westpac data scientist Kanu Agarwal and AI superstar and maths PhD candidate Adriana Bora in the webinar.


Watch previous webinars on the Careers with STEM On Demand Playlist and subscribe to the Careers with STEM YouTube channel!

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