More than a Number: Mentors Encourage Maths Careers

 In Media releases, News

A new three-year campaign launched this week by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) and the BHP Billiton Foundation as part of their national Choose Maths project, is putting the spotlight on maths career pathways.

Careers awareness remains a key issue for Australian mathematics despite growing industry demand for these skills. This lack of real-world context is translating to poor engagement as evidenced by TIMSS findings that only 13 per cent of Australian Year 8 students identify as liking maths, well below the OECD average.

Year 9 Salisbury High School Student, Ebonie Bung, only recently discovered a love of maths thanks to an inspiring teacher who has transformed her engagement with the subject. Now studying extended maths, she hopes to continue her studies into Year 11 and 12 and university with the view of a career in the field. She believes maths is for everyone and we need to dispel gender narratives that impact maths confidence and enjoyment for girls.

“Girls and women can feel shy when it comes to maths or think that it is ‘uncool’, but if you enjoy it, you should be honest because the opportunities with maths are amazing,” she says.

Choose Maths Careers Awareness campaign ambassador, Ms Charles Gray agrees. She is excited to work on the campaign and share the message that maths leads to real careers.

“Endlessly fun and exquisitely beautiful, maths opens avenues to solve the problems of today and tomorrow,” she says.

More than a number with maths

One of 12 inspiring people in maths featured in a series of posters as part of the launch pack arriving at over 10,000 schools this week, Charles knows first-hand the power of role models. The former street kid and musician turned La Trobe PhD student was inspired to return to maths studies after a former housemate completed a physics degree in her thirties.

“Her journey made me believe my dream was possible. Initiatives such as AMSI’s Choose Maths Careers Awareness campaign are critical to share this message. If I can get this far, then so can any girl possessed with a fascination with mathematics,” she says.

Real opportunities for career success

With a range of additional student, classroom and multi-media resources planned, the campaign builds on existing AMSI careers tools, including the recent biggest ever issue of popular careers guide Maths Adds and website mathsadds.amsi.org.au. Choose Maths Director and AMSI Schools Program Manager, Janine McIntosh, says the campaign is an important step in beginning what is a critical national discussion.

“The stories shared by our mentors highlight perfectly the core message of this campaign and the Choose Maths project. That maths is available to everyone and is a powerful gateway to pathways you never imagined,” says Ms McIntosh.

Opening futures: the skills industry needs

AMSI Director, Professor Geoff Prince says students like Ebonie, who plans to study maths in Year 12, are still in the minority with only 6.9 per cent of Year 12 girls studying advanced maths.

“Students aren’t getting the message about the opportunities in maths. This campaign provides critical real-world context to challenge community perception and gender bias,” says AMSI Director, Professor Geoff Prince.

With Australia’s future economy dependent on a strong STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) pipeline, BHP Billiton Foundation President James Ensor says stories like Charles’ are essential to rewrite existing narratives about maths and girls.

“It is essential we equip young Australians, particularly girls, to lead industry and innovation into the future. The Choose Maths Careers Awareness campaign plays a critical role in changing community understanding of maths as a career pathway,” says Mr Ensor.

The campaign is now live online at http://teachers.choosemaths.org.au/careers/

Factsheets
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Ambassadors Also Available for Media:

VICTORIA

Charles Gray – La Trobe University

Cassie Pennicuik – Country Fire Authority

Lyndal Henden – Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

Saskia Freytag – Walter and Eliza Hall Instiute

ACT/NSW

Karlie Noon – Astrophysicis ANU/CSIRO

Janine Stewart – Senior Maths Teacher, St Columba Anglican School

WA

Kylie Hollins – BHP Billiton

Additional student case studies are also available for all states.

For Interview:
Ms Janine McIntosh, Schools Program Manager and Choose Maths Program Director
Charles Gray, Choose Maths Careers Awareness Ambassador
Ebonie Bun, Year 9, Salisbury High School
BHP Billiton Foundation President, Mr James Ensor
Choose Maths Careers Ambassadors (See links above)

Media Contacts: 
AMSI – Laura Watson
E: media@amsi.org.au
M: 04215 18733
W: amsi.org.au

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