Looking at Maths from Acute(r) angle
This article does not represent teachers or UN Youth Australia as a whole – this is simply an interpretation by one of our fantastic facilitators in hope to create ideas and increased dialogue surrounding this topic.
For those of you who know me, you might also know that I’m currently studying to be a high school mathematics teacher; perhaps a nontraditional career path for your local UN Youth Facilitator. Nonetheless, I still hold social justice at the core of my identity, and it is my strong belief that we live in an incredibly beautiful, but devastatingly broken world. Hundreds of millions of people don’t have access to sufficient food, our natural environment is arguably on the brink of destruction, and many people’s basic human rights continue to be violated worldwide. Domestically, income inequality has steadily been rising, illicit drug abuse continues to be a nationwide problem, and mental illness remains endemic to our schools. At times, it can all feel quite overwhelming. In any case, it is hardly surprising that so many of you find yourselves sitting in maths class, ultimately asking, “why should I care?” I mean, honestly, who has time for abstract algebra when the world is so deep in suffering? Well, maybe I can provide a new perspective.
To me, mathematics is a language; it is an art form that relies on creativity just as much as it does on logic. It’s a set of tools allowing us to communicate real-world phenomenon with a specificity as precise as it is humbly delightful (I’m a nerd, I know…). In all seriousness, however, I think that mathematics forms the basis of all government policy responses to the issues currently facing modern society. Practically speaking, it allows for a means to weigh economic, scientific, and humanitarian problems, consider solutions, and maximise the efficiency of said solutions. Though I’ll be the first to acknowledge that experiences and emotions cannot always be merely reduced to a series of numbers – I do fundamentally believe that an understanding of mathematics may, at times, allow us to better understand the world by first better understanding ourselves. Yes, gradients of tangents to curves, binomial theory, and polynomial factorisation generally seem to be living in a world separate to our own – the ever elusive ‘Realm of Mathematics’.
Nevertheless, I think it’s important to remember that math still has a crucial role in our society; in finding solutions to the problems facing our generation, and in enacting the change you want to see in the world.
– Jeremy, NSW