Mathematics is the study of order, relation and pattern. From its origins in counting and measuring it has evolved in highly sophisticated and elegant ways to become the language now used to describe much of the modern world. Statistics is concerned with collecting, analysing, modelling and interpreting data in order to investigate and understand real-world phenomena and solve problems in context. Together, mathematics and statistics provide a framework for thinking and a means of communication that is powerful, logical, concise and precise.
The major themes of Mathematical Methods are calculus and statistics. They include as necessary prerequisites studies of algebra, functions and their graphs, and probability. They are developed systematically, with increasing levels of sophistication and complexity. Calculus is essential for developing an understanding of the physical world because many of the laws of science are relationships involving rates of change. Statistics is used to describe and analyse phenomena involving uncertainty and variation. For these reasons this subject provides a foundation for further studies in disciplines in which mathematics and statistics have important roles. It is also advantageous for further studies in the health and social sciences. In summary, the subject Mathematical Methods is designed for students whose future pathways may involve mathematics and statistics and their applications in a range of disciplines at the tertiary level.
For all content areas of Mathematical Methods, the proficiency strands of the F-10 curriculum are still applicable and should be inherent in students’ learning of this subject. These strands are Understanding, Fluency, Problem solving and Reasoning, and they are both essential and mutually reinforcing. For all content areas, practice allows students to achieve fluency in skills, such as calculating derivatives and integrals, or solving quadratic equations, and frees up working memory for more complex aspects of problem solving. The ability to transfer skills to solve problems based on a wide range of applications is a vital part of mathematics in this subject. Because both calculus and statistics are widely applicable as models of the world around us, there is ample opportunity for problem solving throughout this subject.
Mathematical Methods is structured over four units. The topics in Unit 1 build on students’ mathematical experience. The topics ‘Functions and graphs’, ‘Trigonometric functions’ and ‘Counting and probability’ all follow on from topics in the F-10 curriculum from the strands, Number and Algebra, Measurement and Geometry and Statistics and Probability. In Mathematical Methods there is a progression of content and applications in all areas. For example, in Unit 2 differential calculus is introduced, and then further developed in Unit 3 where integral calculus is introduced. Discrete probability distributions are introduced in Unit 3, and then continuous probability distributions and an introduction to statistical inference conclude Unit 4.
Mathematical Methods aims to develop students’:
- understanding of concepts and techniques drawn from algebra, the study of functions, calculus, probability and statistics
- ability to solve applied problems using concepts and techniques drawn from algebra, functions, calculus, probability and statistics
- reasoning in mathematical and statistical contexts and interpretation of mathematical and statistical information including ascertaining the reasonableness of solutions to problems
- capacity to communicate in a concise and systematic manner using appropriate mathematical and statistical language
- capacity to choose and use technology appropriately and efficiently.