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When will I ever use this Mathematics equation after School?

As an educator, I often have to answer questions such as:

  • “Why do we need to study this?”
  • “When will I ever need this?”

These are always a very difficult questions to answer, because for most students they will never need to ever use Pythagoras’ Theorem or find a reason to factorise a quadratic trinomial.  I always tell my students that no-one really knows where life will take them, and any knowledge will surely enrich them.

Most of our School community will remember 2018 graduate Carina van den Berg, an intelligent and motivated young lady, who always did her best. This was certainly true in her mathematics course, where she worked hard knowing that her passions lay in a completely opposite direction. Carina is currently enrolled in a Bachelor of Design majoring in Fashion, and recently wrote me this email.

 “I wanted to let you know something interesting I have done in uni... out of all the ATAR subjects I took in year 12, I have used maths the most, besides of course English. 

Regardless, I have used trigonometry, Pythagoras and the Fibonacci Sequences in my short time at uni. And no, I am unfortunately not taking any maths classes.

For my first unit in fashion, I had a brief to design a garment inspired by origami. Instead of folding actual origamis and sewing them together, I engineered a new type of sleeve where the sleeve moves and transforms as the wearer uses their arm. Just one of the sleeves consists of over the 100 triangles tessellated together, all of which has been precisely placed in order to move effectively.  This is where I used trigonometry and Pythagoras to work out the size, area and possible movement space of the triangles. 

Also, in another unit I had to design a garment that transforms into a shelter. I decided to create a hoodie that transforms into a tent. Again, I used a lot of Pythagoras to work out the pattern.  

Did you know there is a designer (Lea Ferni) who has used the Fibonacci sequence to design a skirt? Crazy how important maths really is. 

Thank you for teaching me these glorious skills that I will long use.”

I wish that I could go back to my high school English teacher and take back the question “When will I ever need to write an essay?”

Wendy Hurst
Head of Mathematics