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University welcomes new 10-year plan for mathematics

17 March 2016
Importance of mathematics prerequisites highlighted in latest roadmap

A new ten-year plan for mathematics in Australia, launched today by federal education minister Simon Birmingham, has called for compulsory mid-level mathematics for university entry, just one month after the University of Sydney announced its own mathematics prerequisites.

Professor Nalini Joshi. Image: Ted Sealey.

A new ten-year plan for mathematics in Australia, launched today by federal education minister Simon Birmingham, has called for compulsory mid-level mathematics for university entry, just one month after the University of Sydney announced its own mathematics prerequisites.

Currently only 14 percent of Australian universities require science students to have studied intermediate mathematics in Year 12.

The University of Sydney led the charge to reverse falling mathematics standards by becoming the first university in NSW to introduce prerequisites  to 62 of its courses, which will require students to have completed at least two-unit mathematics for course entry from 2019.

Developed by the National Committee for Mathematical Sciences, the ten-year plan makes a dozen key recommendations for improving mathematics standards in Australia across education, industry and the university sector.

Chair of the National Committee Professor Nalini Joshi, from the University of Sydney's School of Mathematics and Statistics, said that improving the mathematics skills of the next generation is vital for future workforce demands.

"We are in the era of big data but what good is data without the ability to interpret and analyse it? We need people who have the skills to take that raw information and turn it into something useful," Professor Joshi said. 

If we are training new scientists without a good understanding of maths, Australian science will soon be in trouble.
Professor Nalini Joshi

"Maths underpins just about everything – from the technology in your smartphone to the banking and financial systems that support our economy to how we measure and predict our health. Maths is also the cornerstone of all scientific endeavour – so if we are training new scientists without a good understanding of maths, Australian science will soon be in trouble," she said.

The ten-year plan was developed after extensive consultation with mathematical scientists in schools, universities, government agencies and industry. It is the latest in a series of strategic roadmaps for all science disciplines in Australia developed by the Australian Academy of Science's National Committees for Science.

Dr Clio Cresswell from the University of Sydney's Faculty of Science will moderate a panel discussion following the official launch of the plan, which features former chief scientist Professor Ian Chubb, assistant science minister Karen Andrews, director of reSolve: Mathematics by Inquiry Dr Steve Thornton and Professor Kerrie Mengersen from the Queensland University of Technology. 

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