The Importance of Math Education in Australia’s Engineering Industry

The Importance of Math Education in Australia's Engineering Industry

Declining math enrollment poses a threat to the future of engineering in Australia

Mathematics has become a hot topic in the Australian engineering community, with professionals and experts emphasizing its crucial role in the field. The declining enrollment of students in math courses, particularly at intermediate and higher levels, has raised concerns about the future pipeline of engineers in the country. This article explores the challenges faced by the engineering profession in Australia due to the decreasing emphasis on math education and the potential consequences for the industry.

The Decline in Math Enrollment

According to the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, the number of year 12 students choosing to study intermediate or higher level math is at an all-time low. Only 66% of final year students are enrolled in one or more math subjects, compared to the typical levels of 71-73% in the past decade. One contributing factor to this decline is the lack of compulsory math education in some Australian states and territories. Additionally, a surprising 38% of engineering courses in Australia do not require any level of math as a prerequisite for entry.

The Importance of Math in Engineering Education

Mathematics has long been considered an essential component of engineering education. Associate Professor Gavin Buskes from the University of Melbourne highlights the correlation between students who study math in high school and their interest in engineering. Math provides analytical and problem-solving skills that are crucial for engineers. It serves as a playground for developing these skills without the need for discipline-specific knowledge. Moreover, math is vital for understanding complex systems and driving creativity in engineering design.

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Consequences of Declining Math Enrollment

The declining enrollment in math courses poses challenges for both universities and students. Universities must support students with varied skill levels, including those who may be underprepared for math-heavy degrees like engineering. Students who enter engineering programs without a strong foundation in math may struggle with the content and face difficulties in completing their degrees. Research shows that a significant number of engineering students do not complete their degrees within the minimum time frame, leading to a potential shortage of qualified engineers in the future.

The Need for a Strong Math Education

Engineers Australia, the leading professional body for engineers in the country, emphasizes the need for more young Australians to study math at higher levels and higher standards. A strong math education is crucial for meeting the nation’s engineering needs, including the clean energy transition, major infrastructure projects, and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics. To address the looming skills crisis in the engineering industry, efforts must be made to encourage and support students in pursuing math education.


The declining enrollment in math courses among Australian students poses a significant challenge to the engineering industry. A strong foundation in mathematics is essential for developing the analytical and problem-solving skills required in engineering. The lack of math prerequisites for many engineering courses and the declining emphasis on math education in schools contribute to the potential shortage of qualified engineers in the future. To ensure a robust pipeline of engineering talent, it is crucial to prioritize math education and encourage more students to study math at higher levels. By doing so, Australia can meet the growing demand for engineers and thrive in the face of technological advancements and emerging industries.

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