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Maths still on the nose for kids: report

The push to encourage more students towards maths is not working, according to a report released by the Australian Institute of Mathematical Sciences (AMSI).

The Australian Financial Review (AFR) reported that the proportion of students entering maths degrees is half the OECD average and the proportion of year 12 school students doing advanced maths continues to fall.

The number of maths graduates from Australian universities has fallen to its lowest level since 2001 and the push for girls to take advanced maths courses in high school are not working, a new report has found.

The efforts to bring more girls into advanced maths courses are not paying off, with 6.8 per cent of year 12 girls studying it in year 12 in 2014, compared with 13.4 per cent of boys. “An entrenched gender divide and a critical failure to engage younger generations continue to pose a very real threat to Australia’s innovation future,” AMSI director Geoff Prince told AFR.

He also told AFR that “there is a real shortage [of skills] in the mathematical sciences at a time when data sciences are so important”, considering “mathematical sciences research underpins almost all other research and has far-reaching impacts for industry, from analysing and modelling data to forecasting and systems management.”

The AFR reported a warning from Professor Prince that the declining interest in maths among young people would have a critical impact on business because workers with maths skills already had a high age profile, with the the smallest proportion of workers under 34 of any of the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) disciplines.

He said universities were partly to blame for the decline in advanced maths enrolments in year 12 because many of them had stopped making maths a prerequisite for taking degrees in maths-heavy fields such as science, engineering and commerce.

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