Australia needs to do more to promote and teach maths, in a world where STEM skills are becoming more important than ever.
That's the message from the new Decadal Plan for Mathematics in Australia, released by Education Minister Simon Birmingham in Canberra.
The plan, developed by the National Committee for Mathematical Sciences, makes a dozen key recommendations to improve maths in Australia. They include requiring at least Year 12 intermediate mathematics subjects as prerequisites for all university bachelors programs in science, engineering and commerce. Currently only 14 per cent of Australian universities require science students to have studied intermediate mathematics in Year 12.
Several ACEMS Chief Investigators were in Canberra for the event, including Prof Nigel Bean (Adelaide), Prof Peter Forrester (Melbourne), and Prof Kerrie Mengersen (QUT).
Nigel and Peter both were both subcommittee chairs, and members of the Decadal Plan Steering Committee that came up with recommendations for the report.
While not listed as one of the top 3 recommendations, Nigel said he felt a very important proposal was that everyone involved in mathematics "should embark upon a coordinated program of promotion to ensure that parents, school students and teachers understand that studying mathematics subjects at the highest level possible increases career options."
“We really have to change the public’s minds about mathematics," says Nigel. "When your kid comes home and says, ‘I’m finding maths hard,’ it’s not OK to say, ‘Don’t worry, I couldn’t do it either. You won’t need it.’ We need a hearts and minds campaign that maths is just as important as learning to read and write.”
Peter Forrester says there are a lot of issues vying for the attention of government, and that more needs to be done to promote mathematical research to a wider community.
"Individual researchers, coordinated by their Departments, and Centres of Excellence such as ACEMS," said Peter, "need to be more aware of the need to promote their research, and to be able to argue the value of research in the Mathematical Sciences for Australia’s future."
Finally, the plan pays tribute to the late Peter Hall, ACEMS founding director, for his massive contribution to the project. You can see that on page 2 of the report.