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USQ Associate Professor Linda Galligan with the Reserve Bank’s Dr Leon Berkelmans.

The numbers don’t lie – senior school students are abandoning higher-level maths subjects, or discarding the subject completely.

It’s an alarming issue, especially given the growing demand for workers with maths skills.

To help address this problem, USQ hosted a professional development day in Toowoomba and Springfield this week for teachers who wanted to learn how to deliver mathematics in a way that will inspire and engage young people.

Now in its ninth year, the Mathematics Teachers Professional Learning Day brought together teachers from across the region to reflect on new ideas and discover the latest technologies and applications of mathematics in industry.

Event organiser and USQ Associate Professor (Mathematics) Linda Galligan said before building students’ passion in maths, we must first help teachers build confidence and knowledge in the subject.

“While the fall in intermediate and advanced mathematics seems to have been halted, it is concerning that many students choose to do a lower level of mathematics than they may need for future studies,” Associate Professor Galligan said.

“We need more young people to stick with maths and to make that happen we need to provide teachers with the tools and support they need to make maths more interesting, more engaging and more relevant to students.

“We have some excellent and very dedicated teachers, but it is important they are also given ongoing professional development so they can develop a deeper understanding of mathematics with their students.

“We encourage teachers to think creatively around some of the exciting and real world applications of mathematics and statistics that could spark students’ interest.”

Associate Professor Galligan, a former maths teacher with more than 40 years’ teaching experience, said studying mathematics helps to develop skills in logical thinking, problem solving and decision making.

“A strong foundation and interest in maths will create more opportunities for students to pursue a wide range of career paths,” she said.

This week's events saw participants take part in a range of activities and presentations from USQ academics and industry professionals, including Dr Leon Berkelmans, Senior Manager of the Reserve Bank’s domestic markets department, who spoke about the important role maths plays in the economic sector.

It also provided a chance to learn how mathematics and statistics can be applied to different careers, including occupations outside traditional STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) fields.

One highlight from the day was a session run by 3D printing expert and USQ Community Engagement Coordinator Stephanie Piper.

“Steph’s knowledge about 3D printing and coding gave a really good insight into the powerful impact digital technologies can have on teaching maths and making students more engaged with the subject,” Associate Professor Galligan said.