Choose Maths championing girls in STEM - Education Matters Magazine
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Choose Maths championing girls in STEM

Choose Maths championing girls in STEM

Choose Maths was created with the aim of increasing participation of girls in mathematics, however the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) reveals sustained funding is critical for the project to achieve long-term impact.

Supported by the BHP Foundation, AMSI’s Choose Maths project has demonstrated the potential of mathematics learning and reached over 58,000 students and 3000 teachers nationally since it was launched five years ago.

But now AMSI’s Choose Maths project is at risk of ending after five years of support from the BHP Billiton Foundation. During that time it has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into schools across the country.

Logan Student, Gina Rambold-Dent from Queensland’s Mabel Park State High School is among the students who have taken part in the project.

Gina has been involved with AMSI Choose Maths since it began in 2015, and credits the project and Mabel Park State High School’s Head of Maths and Science, Stacey King, for building her confidence in mathematics and current participation in advanced studies.

Through the Project and the support of the AMSI Schools Outreach team, Mabel Park State High School has implemented a range of initiatives including Girls Excelling in Maths and Science (GEMS), and participated in careers events. Stacey King was also one of two top AMSI Choose Maths Teacher Award winners in 2016.

At a special Choose Maths event in Melbourne on 11 September, Gina was awarded a $5000 AMSI Choose Maths scholarship. This will support her transition to university studies and is conditional on her acceptance into an Australian University. Now in Year 11, the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute will stay in touch with her during her Year 12 studies next year. She hopes to study medicine or lead research to cure cancer.

Gina is also currently the recipient of an ABCN Scholarship to support her senior studies – funding for severely disadvantaged students that helps ensure they have school uniforms, books and essentials to allow them to attend school.

“Choose Maths has inspired me to strive regardless of disadvantage in my life. As a young woman, the project has empowered me to pursue a STEM career. Something I didn’t think was possible, as no-one in my family has done this before,” she said.

Gina, who was also named 2018 QLD Girl Power STEM Ambassador and 2019 UQ Science Ambassador, said the project has been an important part of her life. She wants other students to benefit from the project’s work with teachers, students, parents and communities, helping girls to discover they can not only be good at maths, but the opportunities the subject opens. She was part of a panel at the recent event that has called on industry to step forward and help keep the project going.

AMSI Director, Professor Tim Brown said there are many examples of the project’s impacts on lives and school communities. Having pioneered many of the strategies now being explored as part of national policy development to secure Australia’s STEM future, he added it is an Australian success story with many chapters to come.

“With the support of the BHP Foundation, AMSI’s Choose Maths project has already delivered significant impact with inspiring results. However, we’re only just starting this journey and to secure Australia’s future and support future innovation we need to see this through. We can’t afford to drop the ball on this now,” he said.

In addition to components such as a national careers awareness campaign, the implementation of a mentoring network for girls and women in mathematics and the Choose Maths Awards, AMSI Schools Program Manager and Choose Maths Project Director, Janine Sprakel, said a big part of the project’s success has been in its delivery of teacher outreach.

“We’ve worked with over 3000 teachers to deliver some 7000 hours training with outstanding results. Thousands of students, have been impacted by this transfer of expertise and knowledge, including a plethora of digital resources, tools and classroom materials,” she said.

BHP Foundation Chair, Chip Goodyear, added that the Project is a powerful example of the Foundation’s success in partnering to deliver real and lasting national impact in and beyond the classroom. “The evidence demonstrates that participating in AMSI’s Choose Maths project transforms mathematical engagement, confidence and perception of the next generation of mathematical thinkers, particularly girls and women. Sustaining this work will support the building of Australia’s STEM workforce and the future of Australian industry.”