What did you end up doing as a job?

Sponsored by Westpac, who is proud to offer Mathspace Essentials free for all Australians

When I was in Year Six I had a teacher called Mr. Holloway. Mr. Holloway could be fairly frightening but underneath it all he was your typical Aussie larrikin. I remember him as very lanky and he dressed like a bushie. His preferred method of torture was public humiliation.

Every Friday he would draw a circle on the board and randomly write the numbers 1-12 around it. And then in the middle he would choose a number, again in the 1-12 range, in the center of the circle. Then each and every one of us had to stand up as he stood there with a stopwatch. We had to recite our times tables.

It was petrifying. Some kids were super quick at them and some just froze in shock. If you stood there in shock for a while, he would throw the chalkboard duster at you and bellow…

“Sit down you dunderhead!”

Several decades later, I still remember this as if it happened yesterday.

But maths for me wasn’t always that way. I loved making patterns with the Cuisenaire rods. Remember them? Belgium primary school teacher Georges Cuisenaire who saw them as a very effective hands on way to approach many mathematical concepts.

But maths was never one of my strongest points. In high school, I did a subject, which was affectionately known as VEGGIE MATHS. It was the lowest level of maths that could be studied. The highlight of the scholastic year was an excursion to a McDonalds so we could study the tiled tessellations on the floor.

And no, I am not even joking.

However, when I graduated as a Primary School teacher, the teaching of mathematics had changed so much! It was much more hands-on and kid-friendly that it was a subject that I ended up really enjoying teaching. I loved it when you could see concepts “click” with kids. Maths can get a bad rap, but in reality it can be very creative.

In Australia, during the last decade, the number of kids doing NO maths in their final year has tripled. Which is all very well and good but research indicates that 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations require maths and science knowledge.

Mathspace is widely regarded as the best online resource for maths. Westpac recently teamed up with Mathspace to make their online Essentials program free for all Aussie kids, to support and extend what they are doing in the classroom. And it being online, well kids are going to love it.

I mean, what is there to lose? It is free, it is interactive and did I mention it was free?

To download your copy, simply click here.

Did you excel in maths as a kid? How are your kids doing with maths?

What did you end up doing as a career?

  • I didn’t do maths for my HSC, as my year 11 maths teacher kindly told me every lesson not to bother with it as it wasn’t my thing. I ended up a journalist. If you ever go out to lunch with a bunch of journos and the bill arrives, everyone looks at each other nervously thinking: “Ok, who’s going to divide it up.” All the journos I’ve ever met are not number people.

    I wish I hadn’t given up on maths at school, but it was generally drilled into me throughout my schooling by many teachers that I wasn’t a “maths person”. I now don’t believe that’s actually true and wish they’d been more supportive and pushed me a little more. It’s easy as a kid to accept something if a teacher/s tell you it.

    My kids are OK with maths, but they definitely don’t love it (as much as I tell them it’s great).

    • I laughed out loud at your lunch with journos comment. I can just see it!

  • Antoinette

    I graduated from a high school type, that was especially created in the 19th century for girls to learn how to be a smart conservationist and have knowledge of all kinds of interesting subjects. So I learned 4 languages, French, English, German and Dutch, History and Geography, Biology and Art History. I went to work in a hospital after graduation and did the in-service training to become a registered nurse. Officially this type of school doesn’t exist anymore, it was abolished in the early 70ties and a different system was brought in that is more like the Aussie High School system and the same complaints about maths being shunned are made in the Netherlands.

    • My Mum did the in-house nursing training as well!

  • Allira

    I was good at Maths at school, and did extension 1 maths (3 unit) for my HSC. I’m saying that, I was still that kid that used to question the teachers, “why do we need to learn trigonometry, who would ever use this in the real world.” Well 13 years, 1 half nursing degree and 1 full business degree later, I am now a building estimator who uses maths every day for work, and even that useless trigonometry gets used when dealing with rooves. My husband is a chippy, so uses maths and trig every day too.
    So to those girls in school, dreaming of being nurses (or anything else that you think maths would be useless for), don’t drop maths, as you never know where life may lead.

  • I did Maths right up to Year 11, when I did double maths. Brilliant first semester, which was all the arithmetic subjects, and then crashed right through the floor in second semester with the pure Maths subjects…and was, consequently terrified of even attempting it in Year 12, so did Biology as my required science subject. The others were English, Australian History, Music Performance and Visual Art. Went to the Con to do a music degree, which even with a second attempt later doing voice (I started with French Horn) I never finished. Went to Art school MANY years later and did a studio based degree, followed by an academic Masters.
    I’ve been a teacher, one way or another for most of my working life, in schools, museums, performing arts companies and privately. I’ve performed professionally for a good part of my working life as an opera singer, been a chef, and various (hated) admin jobs in between, an art finisher for the opera company in South Australia when they built the first fully Australian production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, worked retail…I have an impossibly unorthodox CV that made in increasingly difficult for me to get jobs. My last actual job was a marketing job for a big city church where I was hired by a maverick GM who could see past the diverse list of jobs to my actual capabilities. These days, I write, pursue my art practice, and sing for pleasure. The lack of Maths expertise hasn’t been a thing, as it wouldn’t have been necessary in any of the work I’ve done!

    • Such diverse talent! Very impressive indeed.

      • Thank you ma’am! x Unfortunately, what potential employers see is lack of focus in one particular area…that most of the actual skills involved are transferrable doesn’t appear to sink in most of the time. Meh – working from home on my own stuff doesn’t involve office politics!!! That’s GOT to be a serious positive!

  • sue

    i had a duster throwing maths teacher in high school – he was a great shot & could hit me in the back of the head nearly every time!
    Of course his defence was always that if id been facing the front & paying attention i would have seen it coming
    Regardless i loved maths!

    • I think they must have taught that trick at Teachers College.

      • Jan Davis

        I can categorically state that it was not taught at Teachers’ College – certainly in my time there. Like most skills, good aim was attained only through consistent practice over long periods of time. The challenge went out of it when dusters no longer had wooden backs, as flight dynamics changed significantly. Rather than retrain,I left teaching soon thereafter. 😉

  • JP

    All of the talk lately about mortgage stress and people borrowing more than they probably should has led me to think that there is something basic missing from our school curriculum.
    I think everyone should do maths and I’d like to see an increased focus on the practical stuff that you need in life like calculation of interest, compounding debt etc rather than Pythagoras theorem.

    • There was a Maths in Society strand when I was at school which focused on the practical stuff.

      • Nadine

        The current standard Maths unit has a huge section on interest, tax, wages etc

  • Bee

    Mrs W is Mathspace for Primary only?

    • No darling. It is from Year 3 to Year 12 and is tailored to every states Curriculum. Like having a free Maths Tutor.

    • Bee


  • Veggie maths girl here too – but I am trying to make sure my kids take after their dad in that department. He LOVES calculus – groan

    • I am married to a human calculator as well. Can be handy and annoying.

  • Mel G

    3-unit Maths here 😉 My daughter loves Maths, she’s currently in Yr 9 and completing the Yr 10 course so she’ll be signing off on that subject a year early! I think the worst thing they did was do away with the compulsory maths – “in my day” maths and English were compulsory right through to HSC – is it any wonder there’s a massive decline since they binned maths??

    Career-wise, I always wanted to be a secretary and so I did. 25yrs, kids, random family-friendly part-time jobs later, I’ve come full circle and am (finally) back in the office again 🙂

    • It is a bit of a concern about the drop off rate. I will be encouraging mine to continue to study it.

  • Tracey

    I did veggie maths too! And yet of all my family and friends, I am the best calculator for arithmetic around. I can even work out run rates for the cricket in my head. Besides, I wanted to be a librarian and that was all about the words. And that was a job I did do for some years. But not now.

    • You are a mental computation legend!

  • Nadine

    I thought I recognised that uniform.
    It was similar to mine at St Monica’s.

  • Lea, rhymes with h&b

    omg, I thought that was MY school photo! All those characters, I even know their personalities … how can we all be some same-ish!

    I also did Vege Math .. it was my great shame but I wasnt coping in 2U maths. All my friends were brainy and I was totes good at all my other classes ( note: soft sciences ) so I was ashamed to be suddenly with the troublemakers and ne’er-do-wells.. and I as scared, but they were pretty funny peeps actually.

    Went on to study peeps and Psych and Soc and peeps and peeps and peeps. Excelled in sales, love me a stat. Prefer to be alone with some words. Stil count on my fingers and refer the tougher shit to my math-smart husbo and care not that I do.