We all know that the world’s population is still growing, there is rapid development of and reliance upon diverse technologies, new diseases are evolving, some are developing resistance to medicines and there are many signs that the natural environment we depend upon for our survival is damaged and under strain. The wellbeing of ourselves and our planet in the future is dependent on solving complex problems – a pursuit which always includes mathematics!

There is a need today for both a mathematically literate society as well as a steady stream of those who will go on to further study that enables higher levels of mathematics capability.

Yet, if you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to be part of an audience where mathematics teachers and researchers are talking, as I have been, you might be surprised to hear that the ‘doing’ of Mathematics offers even more than the capacity to solve problems. It is this “more” that is surprising to many and may inspire greater interest and achievement in mathematics in our schools. This in turn of course leads to those students who wish to go onto related fields at University being better prepared and more successful. It is this “more” that also inspires those who choose to spend their lives teaching or conducting research in mathematics.

What is this “more”? I believe it is about adventure and exploration, the unknown, a search for patterns and meaning and the opportunity to be creative, on a journey that can ultimately lead to a deep sense of satisfaction.

Although it is important that we continue to strive to maintain quality mathematics education, both for our own wellbeing, that of future generations and the planet, the experience of doing mathematics for our students can be much more than just an enforced school requirement. A Public Lecture on Tuesday night at the Town Hall has been organised by Dr Judy-anne Osborn, from the University of Newcastle; a mathematician and mathematics educator who is not only passionate about mathematics education and research, but believes, like me, that it is also crucial to provide opportunities for more about this to be shared with the public.

We need to offer inspiration and ideas in the ongoing pursuit of higher levels of interest and achievement in mathematics in our schools.

One of the recommendations by Professor Ian Chubb, recently retired Chief Scientist, has sparked a national program to Inspire Mathematics and Science in Teacher Education (IMSITE). This project headed by Dr Judy-anne Osborn at the University of Newcastle, involves increasing the interaction between mathematicians ie. those who do, teach and conduct research on mathematics at a tertiary level, together with secondary mathematics teachers and those preparing to be mathematics teachers as a means to improve mathematics teacher preparation.

Another recommendation of the Chief Scientist was that mathematics should be taught more like it is done. That means that it should be taught in relation to its application to real world problems as well as for more adventurous and creative purposes, as previously mentioned, not simply as rote learning from a textbook.

The Public Lecture is an initiative of the IMSITE Project. Other initiatives include the recently established Newcastle Maths Educator Community, recently established for secondary and tertiary maths educators, and for local students The Young Mathematician’s Program and The National Statistical Literacy Project.

Written by: Edwina Butler, University of Newcastle School of Mathematics and Physical Sciences

A free public lecture will be held in City Hall Tuesday 8 December at 6pm. Nalini Joshi, Professor of Mathematics and Cassandra Portelli, local Head Teacher of Mathematics will explore Journeys through Mathematics and Life.