What I Wish I Knew In High School

A few weeks ago someone shared some wisdom that stopped me in my tracks. “Success isn’t just about becoming the best at things that come easily for you,” she told me. “It’s about becoming better at things you find challenging.”

Perhaps that’s obvious to some of you. But for me, it was a revelation.

Case in point: I was always really good at the humanities in high school – English, History, Art. I was “fine” at Maths and Science, but I had to actually work at them – so when I chose my subjects for Year 12, I ditched the numbers in favour of the things that came naturally.

I wish I’d known then what I know now: that while you might never knock out a quadratic equation in your 9 to 5, maths skills have a huge correlation to financial and career success.

Turns out, according to new Westpac research, Australians who are confident in their maths ability are more likely to be satisfied with their career and life compared to those who are not.

Westpac’s Numeracy Study also found a positive correlation between maths skills and average income levels – people who did maths in years 11 and 12 earn more than those who ditched it in years 7 – 10.

Meanwhile, maths skills in Australia are in decline. (Clearly, I’m not the only one who decided to opt out back in high school.)

From your life satisfaction to your pay packet, taking simple steps to improve your maths skills at any age can have considerable advantages.

And it’s important to keep those maths skills relevant – as technology becomes more prominent, things that people used to do for a living are becoming automated – so today’s young people have to prepare for jobs that don’t even exist yet.

Mathspace CEO Mohamad Jebara emphasises the importance of numeracy in the emerging skills economy: “One thing we know for certain, is that the majority of the jobs of tomorrow will require strong mathematics skills, and we’re not producing enough students with these skills.”

Of course, it’s not too late. Like any skill, it’s a muscle to be exercised. There are even digital maths programs that can bring your fundamental maths skills up to scratch – like Mr. Jebara’s Mathspace Essentials, which thanks to Westpac, is now free to download for all Australians.

Working on my maths skills has made me more confident with my finances. Things like compound interest and tax policy actually make sense to me now, and I feel more empowered as a result. I wish I’d known the importance of this stuff in high school – but I’m glad I know now.

Westpac and Mathspace have partnered to offer free access to Mathspace Essentials for all Australians – a saving of $99. They have also launched Solve to Save, providing students who subscribe to Mathspace Plus with the opportunity to have the $10 weekly subscription fee deposited as a reward into their Westpac account if they successfully complete their weekly tasks.