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Maths is a compulsory subject in most school curriculums for a couple years. After that, it becomes an elective and you’re free to drop it – indeed, more and more students are ditching maths as soon as they can.
For students who dislike the idea of numbers and graphs, it can be very tempting to get rid of the subject, but the trouble is you might be short-changing yourself of valuable skills for university and beyond.
‘Maths is about so much more than adding and subtracting and algebra,’ says Dr Julien Ugon, a senior lecturer in mathematics at Deakin University. ‘It’s about basic skills like communication, thinking and analysing. At its core, maths is about logical thinking – there’s no other place than maths where you’re going to acquire such effective logical thinking skills.’
You know what you want to do after school, and it doesn’t involve maths. So there’s not much point in continuing with maths, right? Wrong, actually. Dr Ugon says maths teaches logic and communication, which boost your chances of success in whichever discipline you choose to study. Looking further ahead, logical thinking is a factor in virtually every career there is.
‘The central premise of maths is higher order thinking and an ability to put ideas in order logically and form ideas logically,’ he says. ‘In a sense, it’s about communicating. If you’re good at maths you can improve your ability to communicate. If you’re able to communicate and construct logical arguments and deconstruct other people’s arguments, these skills will give you an edge.’
If you want to work in IT, engineering, construction or biology, maths will be a big help. Computer science is another obvious career path where maths is a must. It’s a good idea to study advanced maths (like Specialist Maths or Maths Methods) because these are often prerequisite subjects for entry into relevant courses – not to mention a solid foundation for learning.
‘You need to know maths because the underlying theory of these disciplines is mathematics,’ Dr Ugon says.
You’ll also need to study maths to gain entry into courses like teaching and medical imaging, so even if you don’t know what you want to do when you leave school, continuing with maths will help to keep your options open.
'At its core, maths is about logical thinking – there's no other place than maths where you're going to acquire such effective logical thinking skills.'
Dr Julien Ugon,
School of Information Technology, Deakin University
‘There’s less of an underlying set of knowledge in these areas of study, but it’s a way of thinking,’ Dr Ugon says. ‘It’s a good idea to keep doing maths because maths is helping you to put order in your thinking. It’s developing your high-order thinking skills, which are very important in a wide range of study areas.’
If you’re struggling to find the joy in maths, Dr Ugon says it pays to look to the creative side of the discipline.
‘A lot of students who say they don’t like maths don’t like the nitty-gritty side of maths – the times tables side of things,’ he says. ‘In maths there is also a whole bunch of things that are very creative and have nothing to do with the nitty-gritty.
‘Try to look outside the box and investigate the more playful side of maths like recreational books or blogs. These usually present a different facet of mathematics in the form of puzzles that are more entertaining than school maths problems – but still require serious logical thinking.’
So even if you’re thinking ‘maths is hard’, ‘why am I so bad at maths?’ and ‘why is mathematics so important?’ remember that maths classes and the skills they teach have more to do with setting you up for a life of success rather than making sure you suffer through your last few years of high school. It’s better to bite the bullet now while you’re young, instead of years from now when the responsibilities of life make the process even more difficult.
Trust us and your teacher, you will use maths in real life.
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