Why do maths at all?
Look beyond the numbers and you’ll find a fascinating topic offering boundless career opportunities.
When Monica Wulff came home from Sydney’s German International School the only homework her English-speaking parents could understand was maths. “There’s a universal language with maths which transcends our regular verbal languages, which I think is a uniting factor,” says Monica.
Often described as the “language of science”, people naturally good at maths are better at picking up foreign languages, but the similarities don’t stop there. Contrary to popular belief – and much like languages – you don’t have to be a genius to use and benefit from maths.
“We’ve gotten caught up with the idea that doing maths means you have to be really good at it,” Monica says. “But doing maths is like doing anything else – you’ll have varying levels of competence and that’s OK. Understanding how some of it works allows you to see everything in a different light.”
Monica’s maths teacher told her she wasn’t the best at maths, but that she was good at statistics. So after a double degree in applied finance and economics from Macquarie University in Sydney, she joined the Australian Bureau of Statistics where she noticed a gap in knowledge – there were no statistics on the startup community. As a result, Monica founded Startup Muster in 2013 to offer “relevant, reliable statistics that showcase what is going on in this community”.
Her experience is becoming more common as people begin to realise that instead of being a dry, irrelevant classroom topic, maths is critical to modern careers. Moreover, it gives you an understanding of the world and a set of tools that allow you to fully explore your passions and interests.
– Ben Skuse
How would you change the way maths is taught?
“I would include more puzzles and mind games. Things like cryptic crosswords and lateral-thinking problems.”
– Talia Gokyildirim, Moriah College, Queens Park, NSW
“I would make maths more interactive, not just flipping to page 20 and solving question after question. I would make the teacher be required to thoroughly explain every new technique and topic.”
– Saskia Horgan-Catchpole, Year 9, Sydney Secondary College, Balmain, NSW
Author: Ben Skuse
Ben Skuse is a UK-based former mathematician turned professional science writer, who has written for the Careers with STEM magazines for over 5 years. You can follow him on Twitter @BenSkuseSciComm.