Maths is one of the most important skills that you can learn in high school: not only does it teach you how to use numbers, it also teaches you how to think about numbers, and even how to solve problems that seem to have no numbers at all. But as you go into your HSC years, it can sometimes be conflicting to think about which kind of maths you should look to take, general, two-unit, or none at all?
- What degrees are you considering? For those entering the sciences, such as chemistry, biology, medicine, or economics, two-unit is the recommended subjects. Many degrees, particularly chemistry and medicine, require at least a band 4 in two-unit or above to apply. However, for those considering other degrees, such as history, philosophy, English, or politics, general maths is far better than doing no maths at all! Not only does general maths scale extremely well, but its heavy focus on practical maths like probability, finances, and taxation will set you up well to head out into the world with the knowledge and experience to make your best of it.
- What kinds of maths are you interested in? General maths is aimed, primarily, at those who realise they need to understand maths but who do not, perhaps, particularly enjoy it all the time! Maths is one of those fundamental skills that you really can’t do without in the modern world, and so numerical literacy and confidence with maths is the primary focus of a general curriculum. Two-unit, on the other hand, is for those people who enjoy higher-level problem-solving, and generally would prefer to really get their hands into the numbers and wiggle them about (metaphorically at least). The focus is less on confidence with numbers, which it’s generally assumed you have, and more on the application OF those numbers to solve mathematical puzzles of the kind you’ll face in more scientifically and numerically-oriented subjects.
- Are you planning to prioritise maths? While I personally feel that everyone should take at least general maths unless their timetable really can’t support another subject, many people do not have life plans ahead that really involve the prioritisation of maths. For those people, who recognise that everyone needs to understand some maths but for whom it’s not the main focus of their whole life, general maths is absolutely ideal. For those heading into areas of life that need a little more prioritisation of mathematical and logical problem-solving however, two-unit or above are excellent choices. They require a little more work than general (or a lot more work, for those studying extensions 1 and 2), however, and consequentially you need to appreciate that if you take maths are progressively higher levels, it needs to become progressively more important to your life as you go. At the level of extension 2 – or 4-unit – maths, it should be your number one priority subject, but two-unit is more reasonable!
For absolutely everyone out there, mathematics is and will continue to be a vital skill in your life. Artists need to balance their budgets, archaeologists need to calculate depths of dig-sites, and nurses need to be able to independently verify their patients’ medicines are correctly dosed. However, for many people, general maths is a great choice of subjects. It scales incredibly well, it’s a very balanced subject, and it complements subjects in the sciences and design areas in sometimes-surprising ways. For those looking for a bigger challenge, who are aiming for more academically-scientific degrees, or who simply love to play with numbers however, two-unit maths is the subject for you!
No matter what maths you choose to take, though… good luck!