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.
Because both mathematics and statistics are widely applicable as models of the world around us, there is ample opportunity for problem solving throughout Specialist Mathematics. There is also a sound logical basis to this subject, and in mastering the subject students will develop logical reasoning skills to a high level.
Specialist Mathematics provides opportunities, beyond those presented in Mathematical Methods, to develop rigorous mathematical arguments and proofs, and to use mathematical and statistical models more extensively. Topics are developed systematically and lay the foundations for future studies in quantitative subjects in a coherent and structured fashion. Students of Specialist Mathematics will be able to appreciate the true nature of mathematics, its beauty and its functionality.
Specialist Mathematics has been designed to be taken in conjunction with Mathematical Methods. The subject contains topics in functions, calculus, probability and statistics that build on and deepen the ideas presented in Mathematical Methods and demonstrate their application in many areas. Vectors, complex numbers and matrices are introduced. Specialist Mathematics is designed for students with a strong interest in mathematics, including those intending to study mathematics, statistics, all sciences and associated fields, economics or engineering at university.
For all content areas of Specialist Mathematics, the proficiency strands of the F–10 curriculum are still applicable and should be inherent in students’ learning of the 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 of skills, such as finding the scalar product of two vectors, or finding the area of a region contained between curves, freeing up working memory for more complex aspects of problem solving. In Specialist Mathematics, the formal explanation of reasoning through mathematical proof takes on an important role and the ability to present the solution of any problem in a logical and clear manner is of paramount importance. The ability to transfer skills learned to solve one class of problems, for example integration, to solve another class of problems, such as those in biology, kinematics or statistics, is a vital part of mathematics learning in this subject.
Specialist Mathematics is structured over four units. The topics in Unit 1 broaden students’ mathematical experience and provide different scenarios for incorporating mathematical arguments and problem solving. The unit blends algebraic and geometric thinking. In this subject there is a progression of content, applications, level of sophistication and abstraction. For example, in Unit 1 vectors for two-dimensional space are introduced and then in Unit 3 vectors are studied for three-dimensional space. The Unit 3 vector topic leads to the establishment of the equations of lines and planes and this in turn prepares students for an introduction to solving simultaneous equations in three variables. The study of calculus, which is developed in Mathematical Methods, is applied in Vectors in Unit 3 and applications of calculus and statistics in Unit 4.
Specialist Mathematics aims to develop students’:
- understanding of concepts and techniques drawn from combinatorics, geometry, trigonometry, complex numbers, vectors, matrices, calculus and statistics
- ability to solve applied problems using concepts and techniques drawn from combinatorics, geometry, trigonometry, complex numbers, vectors, matrices, calculus and statistics
- capacity to choose and use technology appropriately.
- 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
- ability to construct proofs.