Bringing Maths to life with engaging examples and real-life application

Bringing Maths to life with engaging examples and real-life application

Kathy Lin - Lead author of 7-10 Maths

What are the chances of Lebron scoring a 3-pointer in the first 30 seconds of a game?

How many Teslas could you buy in a year if your income increased by a factor of four within the year? (answers and workings at the bottom of this article).

It’s fun, real-world, contextual questions like these that could break down the barriers to complicated equations and help young people become more interested and engaged in maths. 

Declines in Maths and other critical skills in Australian students mean that there’s a critical need to boost proficiency. Unfortunately, young people are distracted and disengaged. Content that gets them hooked and wanting to learn more could make all the difference. 

Maths performance has slipped  

It’s no secret that Australian students are underperforming in Maths. PISA scores show that results have gradually declined across the past two decades. And while compared to other OECD countries, Australian student performance has stabilised, that’s partly as a result of other countries performing worse. 

Only 51% of students achieved the National Proficient Standard in maths in 2022. Yet, maths is essential for helping students succeed in their careers. 

STEM skills are in major demand 

Maths skills help set students up for success. We know, for example, that STEM skills are highly sought after in graduates. Students who graduate with strong STEM experience and knowledge are more likely to get jobs and earn more than their counterparts. 

The National Skills Commission’s Skills Priority List 2022 shows that software and applications programmers are the second most in-demand roles in Australia. 

However, interest in STEM is low among Australian students. Only 10% or fewer in Years 11 and 12 study maths. 

Low maths skills in Australian students don’t just have an impact on students themselves but on the wider economy and society. Low numeracy limits Australia’s ability to remain competitive, advance technologically, and have a highly skilled and educated labour market. 

Students are disengaged and distracted 

If you recall studying Maths, you might remember being asked questions like:

  • How many apples are in John’s basket? 
  • How many sheep does Sally own? 
  • Can you work out the size of this paddock? 

In today’s world, the majority of students won’t feel engaged with this type of content. The challenge is: the maths curriculum in Australia has largely remained unchanged for the past five decades even through widespread technological changes.

Today’s students have multiple pulls for their attention. If we’re to compete with the likes of TikTok, YouTube, Netflix, gaming, and on-demand shopping, we must pivot our ways of teaching. 

The learn, cram, and regurgitate methods are no longer working. Students need application and contextual examples that hook them and have them genuinely curious to understand how things work––and how they apply in real life. 

Senior assessments require more application 

What’s more, assessments at the senior level, be it HSC, VCE, or QCE, are trending towards requiring students to be able to analyse and apply the skills they have. 

In HSC exams, for example, performance band descriptors require students to ‘critically analyse’ and show ‘critical judgement’ and ‘reasoning’ in their answers. 

Students can’t just rote learn content anymore and expect to succeed when they reach those critical higher levels. They need to understand key skills and be able to apply them to real-life situations.

Getting young people hooked on Maths 

In our current world of immediate gratification and constant distraction, students want to know why maths matters to them and how it can boost their career, or impact the things they’re interested in. 

Rather than fighting gaming, social media, and the internet, what if we can use these topics as ways to hook students and keep them engaged? 

This can include contextual questions such as: 

  • Rather than figuring out the size of a paddock, you could ask your students to work out the size of a map in a virtual world or a made-up video game scene. 
  • To explain prediction, you could use the context of a famous social media personality to predict how long it will take for them to make their next million followers, or predict the chances of going viral on YouTube. 
  • To make indices more interesting, consider how famous sportspeople, gaming scores, or social media can be used as engaging examples to show how equations work. 

Students will likely be more interested in contextual examples that will bring complicated math equations to life for them. Research has also shown that interest levels from students can positively impact student scores. 

Helping your Maths students succeed 

A bunch of numbers on the board can feel boring and even impossible to a student in 2024 who’s used to being delivered new and engaging content constantly on their phone. 

By bringing in one or two real-world, modern-day examples, your students may be more engaged, be able to better recall, and accurately apply their maths skills for years to come. 

As teachers, contextual examples can be a small win in this current teaching landscape. We can help students succeed by embedding examples within their learning to ensure students understand how maths applies in the real world, thus boosting engagement, and raising final scores. 

No time for lesson planning? At Edrolo, we provide a bank of engaging, contextual and high-quality resources to reduce the administrative burden and enable you to help students expand their learning and succeed in their education. 


Chances of Lebron scoring in the first 30-seconds is almost 0%. Compare this to Steph Curry who has an 8.56% chance of achieving this, based on the workings below.

  • Probability of taking a 3-pointer in the first 30 seconds: This is not straightforward to quantify without specific play data, but let’s assume there’s about a 20% chance that a play is set up for Curry to take a 3-pointer early in the game.
  • Probability of making the 3-pointer given he takes the shot: Approximately 42.8%.

Combining these probabilities (20% chance to take the shot and 42.8% chance to make it):
Overall Probability=0.20×0.428=0.0856\text{Overall Probability} = 0.20 \times 0.428 = 0.0856Overall Probability=0.20×0.428=0.0856
So, the overall probability of Stephen Curry hitting a 3-pointer in the first 30 seconds of a game is about 8.56%.

In terms of the Tesla question, if your income is $100,000 you could by approximately 8 Tesla cars if your income was increased by a factor of 4 and if the Tesla on average cost $50,000. If you manage to 4x your income in a year, let us in on the secret!

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