Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

Math

Math

Campbell Pert

Year 12, The Scots College

I'm sitting in class quietly as I hear the continual circulation of detailed algorithms containing a plethora of symbols and numbers relayed around the room. Some students seemed overly excited, scribbling complex equations and methods down on an A4 sheet of gridded paper, and some not so much, just trying to understand what the first step might be or even trying to identify what use it might have. This is the reality we find in high school mathematics, where the understanding of its use amongst students is distinctively dichotomised. Maths to many students is a very difficult and tedious task, that only the most complex brains can master, such as the tremendous minds of Euler and Newton. It requires a logical thought process and an ability to recognise patterns. And in fact, maths is defined as the abstract science that deals with the logic of shape, quantity and arrangement. A common question or theme I have encountered throughout high school is “what's the point of it?” Its like climbing the stairs of a skyscraper, it's difficult and can seem utterly pointless. However, there is really so much that maths provides as it quite literally exists all around us.

The history of mathematics is almost as old as mankind itself and has been fundamental to advances in science, engineering and philosophy. Impactful discoveries occurred during the 15th and 16th centuries around such countries as Greece, and China and other parts of Europe, Asia and America, which sought rapid development in mathematics as it was vital in maintaining civilisation. The demand for maths arose based on the wants and complexity of society. Around 300BC the Sumerians were in fact the first to create a counting system, which then led to the use of basic operations including; multiplication, fractions, square roots. As this system passed through other civilisations, in America, the Mayans developed elaborate calendar systems, and became very skilled in their study of astronomy. At about this time, the concept of zero was made. Civilisations continued further into creating the concept of geometry, which encompasses area, volume and shapes, which became essential in construction and design. We see today the presently standing buildings and outstanding architectural designs such as, The Great Pyramids of Giza, The Taj Mahal or the Chichen Itza in Mexico, which indeed all utilise very precise mathematics and measurements in order to create its own beautiful image, which we are commonly immersed by.

When I see the impressive feats mankind has managed to achieve, I see it solely due to the basis of mathematics. A language that has been built in order for our planet to send humans to the moon, engender currency systems, build bridges and skyscrapers, and allow us to play our favourite sports and video games. I have enjoyed my long journey of maths since I was a young boy in the junior school. All the times I may have struggled to grasp concepts or thought that maths was too easy, I cherish, because it taught me perseverance and patience and a way to think.  In essence, I believe that if you are not willing to explore the world of maths then you are not truly willing to explore the world we live in.