In light of the COVID-19 situation, Real World Maths in Action will not run in 2021 or 2022. We will update this page if the situation changes and the program returns later this year.
Every two years, the School of Mathematics and Statistics holds a free one-day fair at the University of Melbourne. Students in years 11 and 12 and their teachers are invited to participate in a series of competitions, talks and workshops.
Real World Maths in Action aims to:
- Promote the importance and broad applications of mathematics and problem-solving skills
- Raise awareness of career opportunities for mathematics and statistics graduates.
All participants attend the Mathematicians Exposed talks in the morning and afternoon sessions.
In the middle session, students choose to participate in either the Mathematics in Industry and Technology Challenge or a Short Problem-Solving Competition.
The opening and closing sessions for all students will highlight how you can use mathematics and statistics in your career.
Mathematics in Industry and Technology Challenge
Get a taste of real-world consulting as your team competes to find the best solution to a real-world problem.
Short Problem-Solving Competition
A short problem-solving team competition followed by a fun and games with mathematics workshop.
The Mathematicians Exposed session is a showcase to demonstrate how you can use mathematics and statistics in your career.
Mathematicians Exposed is a showcase of career profiles of mathematics and statistics graduates. The session includes talks by guest speakers, recent graduates and current students as well as a presentation on mathematical modelling.
Learn how and where mathematics and statistics are used in their daily work and the level of mathematical training needed to pursue careers in their profession.
The session also includes displays of current research and consulting projects undertaken by our postgraduate students and research staff. Learn about how you could use maths in medicine, commerce, bioinformatics, nanotechnology, defence, telecommunications, optics and food manufacturing.
In this short problem-solving competition, teams race to solve 20 questions. You will face 4 rounds of questions, with 5 questions per round.
The competition is organised by the Melbourne University Mathematics and Statistics Student Society (MUMS).
The short problem-solving competition is suitable for all Year 11 and 12 mathematics students.
- You can have three or four people per team
- Student teams compete against other student teams
- Teachers can also form teams to compete against other teachers
- No mixed student/teacher teams are allowed.
Prizes will be awarded to the top three student teams and the top teachers’ team.
Winning teams will receive movie passes and certificates. The movie passes will be given out at the end of the competition. Certificates will be delivered to schools during term 3.
A letter with the final results and the solutions of the Short problem-solving competition will be sent to all schools in term 3.
Students who don't participate in the short problem solving competition can participate in the MIT Challenge.
The MIT Challenge will give you a taste of real-world consulting and how to use mathematics to solve a real-world problem.
The competition will engage you in all aspects of consulting. You’ll meet a client to learn about their problem, work with your team to discuss ideas and plan a solution. You’ll then communicate your ideas to the client with written and oral presentations.
You’ll meet an industry representative, your ‘client’, who will present you with a real-world problem. You and your team, ‘the consultants’, will need to find a solution within 2 hours and 30 minutes. The teams will submit a written report of their proposed solution and the top 5 teams will also give a 5-minute talk about their findings.
This competition is suitable for strong Year 11 and 12 mathematics students. It is aimed at students enrolled in Specialist Mathematics 1/2, Mathematical Methods 3/4 or Specialist Mathematics 3/4.
All shortlisted teams and schools will receive certificates. Prizes will be awarded to the students in the top four teams based on their solution, written report and oral presentation.
1st Prize: $800 per team
2nd Prize: $600 per team
3rd Prize: $400 per team
4th Prize: $200 per team
Prizes will not be announced at the Real World Maths in Action fair. Schools with short listed teams will be informed the day after the fair. A letter announcing the winners together with the solutions of the MIT Challenge will be sent to all schools in term three.
EFTPOS gift cards and certificates will be presented at schools in term 3.
Photos will be taken of each of the shortlisted teams after they have presented their talks. Photos will be emailed to the schools in term 3.
Students who don't participate in the MIT Challenge can take part in the Short Problem Solving Competition.
To attend the Real World Maths in Action fair, you will need to register as places are limited.
Registrations are currently closed and will open again on 1 May 2021.
Registration on the day will be on the ground floor of the Sidney Myer Asia Centre. One person from your school must attend the registration desk between 8:30am to 8.50am to register your school and collection an information bag for each participant.
The fair is in the Sidney Myer Asia Centre at the University of Melbourne.
The talks and short problem solving competition will be in the Carrillo Gantner Theatre, in the basement of the Sidney Myer Asia Centre.
You can easily get to the campus on public transport, with trains, trams and buses nearby. The best way to plan your journey is through the Public Transport Victoria website.
What to bring
For the MIT Challenge, your team will be allocated a computer lab and a classroom to work in. Teams will be given an MIT kit containing:
- Booklets to present your written solution in
- Copies of the MIT problem statement
- Pens and paper for the oral presentation.
Computer labs have PC computers with Microsoft Word and Excel as well as printing facilities. Wireless network access and printing will be available.
Each team should bring:
- Students can bring their own laptops if desired.
Short Problem-Solving Competition
For the short problem-solving competition, you should bring:
- Pens and/or pencils
- Paper for rough working
You cannot use a calculator for this competition.
- Morning tea will be provided for all participants.
- Lunch will be provided for teachers in the Mathematics and Statistics staff tea room in the Peter Hall Building.
- Students can bring their own lunch or purchase food on campus.
Maths Fair Rules and Etiquette
Students are expected to participate willingly in activities in a considerate and supportive manner. Disruptive, disrespectful or inappropriate behaviour will be reported to the responsible teacher and the relevant school, and may lead to this school’s exclusion from the program.
Over the lunch break student are encouraged to undertake a self-guided discovery tour of the Parkville campus. During that time, they are not accompanied by their teacher but should be reminded that they are representing their school on campus and that the rules of conduct stated above still apply.
Whilst attending the University all visitors are required to report to a University staff member, as soon as is reasonably practicable, any:
- Identified hazard or uncontrolled risk
- Injury or health and safety incident
- Environmental incident
Sample questions are available from previous years. You can also read about the speakers, presentations and view photos from the 2018 Real World Maths in Action fair.
Information about past events, the program and presentations for the day.
Real World Maths in Action runs every second year. Here you can find photos, guest speaker biographies, short problem-solving competition questions and MIT Challenge questions from past events.
- 2018 MIT Challenge Questions [PDF]
- 2018 MIT Challenge Answers [PDF]
- 2018 Short Problem Solving Questions [PDF]
- 2018 Short Problem Solving Answers [PDF]
- 2016 MIT Challenge Questions [PDF]
- 2016 MIT Challenge Answers [PDF]
- 2016 Short Problem Solving Questions [PDF]
- 2016 Short Problem Solving Answer [PDF]
- 2014 MIT Challenge Questions [PDF]
- 2014 MIT Challenge Answers [PDF]
- 2014 Short Problem Solving Questions [PDF]
- 2014 Short Problem Solving Answer [PDF]
2018 Real World Maths in Action fair
Every year students enjoy the activities and challenges of the Real World Maths in Action fair. Here you'll find a photo gallery of the winners from each competition and the events of previous years.
Real World Maths in Action presents guest speakers to discuss how mathematics and statistics can be used in almost any industry, career or classroom.
The academic speakers featured in the 2018 Real World Maths in Action fair included:
Professor David Balding
I studied mathematics at the University of Newcastle (NSW) and worked there for a year as a tutor and research assistant before heading off to the University of Oxford on a Commonwealth Scholarship to study for a PhD in mathematics. I then held a junior academic post at Oxford for a year before moving successively to Queen Mary London, the University of Reading, Imperial College London and University College London. After 30 years in the UK, I returned to Australia in 2014, where I am Professor of Statistical Genetics in the Schools of Bioscience and of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne.
My research covers a broad range of mathematical and statistical problems in genetics – evolutionary, population and medical. I also work on the interpretation of forensic DNA profiles and have given expert evidence in many court cases as well as writing a book "Weight-of-Evidence for Forensic DNA Profiles" (Wiley, 2nd edition 2015). I am an editor of the Handbook of Statistical Genetics (Wiley, 4th edition will appear late 2018) and the Handbook of Statistical Systems Biology (Wiley, 2011).
Professor Antoinette Tordesillas
Antoinette studied applied mathematics at the University of Adelaide (BSc Honours 1987) and at University of Wollongong (PhD 1992) and was awarded the Michell Medal by ANZIAM in 2000. After working in the USA for several years, she returned to Australia to take up a lecturing position at the University of Melbourne. She was promoted to Professor in 2015.
Antoinette’s research crosses the domains of mathematics, engineering, physics and geophysics. She has been chief investigator on a range of problems relating to: off-road vehicle mobility in terrestrial and extra-terrestrial environments, geotechnical structures, sensor networks, earthquake mechanics, unconventional reservoir characterisation, and design of sustainable construction materials. Her recent work is focused on multiscale material characterisation and modelling from data, fuelled by continuing breakthroughs in high-resolution measurements. These efforts involve international collaborations with multidisciplinary teams from the experimental and high performance computing fronts, including UNESCO on landslide monitoring, with funding from the US Army, US Air Force, NASA and the ARC.
Dr Lewis Mitchell
I completed a BMath (Hons) (Adv) / BSc (Physics) (Adv) at the University of Wollongong in 2007 and then pursued a PhD at the University of Sydney from 2008-2012. After completing the PhD, I undertook a postdoctoral fellowship in the mathematics of climate at the University of Vermont.
I was appointed as a lecturer in applied mathematics within the Stochastic Modelling and Operations Research group at the University of Adelaide in 2014. My research interests are in computational social science and social networks, particularly how information and influence propagate through online social media, as well as data assimilation and the mathematics of weather and climate. I am also an associate investigator with ACEMS.
Dr Sally Kuhlmann
Sally was drawn to the beauty of pure maths in high school and continues to be fascinated and inspired by it today.
After completing a Bachelor of Science, she went on to do a PhD in topology, which studies the nature of space and the objects within it. She learnt a lot about weird and wonderful mathematical spaces, and not theory – sorry, knot theory. She also discovered that as a topologist she could no longer tell the difference between a coffee mug and a donut (see why in her talk!).
Sally also has a passion for teaching mathematics, and for many years worked in the Mathematics and Statistics Learning Centre at the University of Melbourne, before taking time off to have a family. She has now returned to casual tutoring in the School of Mathematics and Statistics, where she enjoys working with the next generation of young maths enthusiasts.
Maths has always been a passion of mine since discovering the beauty, creativity and elegance of mathematical patterns from a young age. I also enjoy the satisfaction of solving difficult problems and learning about useful ways that maths is applied in the real world.
In VCE, I studied Specialist Maths for the challenge and creativity required. This also enabled me to fast-track maths studies at the University of Melbourne, where I majored in Physics and Operations Research – a branch of maths also known as ‘the science of decision making’. Both majors showed how maths could be applied to the real world and make a positive impact, which I really appreciated learning about.
Since graduating in 2015, I have worked in stock trading, business strategy, data analytics and consulting. Many people are surprised by how different my studies and my career seem to be. Yet, in each job, I have often needed to draw upon the analytical and problem-solving skills learnt from studying maths.
It has been an eye-opening experience to work in so many diverse applications of maths, and I will probably continue doing so for a long time yet!
Dr Sue Ann Chen
IBM Research - Australia
I have always liked mathematics – it was the only subject in primary school where it was possible to get a 100 percent. Although this was no longer true as I progressed to high school, my passion for mathematics remained. It was only halfway through my bachelor’s degree that I was made aware that doing a university degree in Mathematics was actually possible! This was when I made a switch over to Mathematics, and discovered applied mathematics though in all truthfulness, I had no idea how mathematics could be used anywhere.
After completing my PhD on bubble surface deformation near a wall, I accepted a research scientist position at IBM Research. It was at IBM that I realised how my mathematics degree could be used to solve a myriad of problems, including renewable energy and finance. The skills I have developed during my PhD: problem-solving, finding patterns in data, programming and even presenting have proven to be useful in my current position. I am still learning new things about mathematics every day at work and am excited to discover new ways to use mathematics to solve our everyday life problems.
Dr Zuhe Zhang
Zuhe Zhang received his PhD in mathematics from the University of Melbourne with a
focused research field of privacy in Bayesian networks and combinatorial problems in lattice
models. He researched in data privacy, machine learning and statistical mechanics and
published in top journals, such as Journal of Machine Learning Research, Journal of
Statistical Physics and Journal of Statistical Mechanics, in these areas. Zuhe is a reviewer for
Mathematical Reviews of the American Mathematical Society (AMS).
Zuhe has extensive experience in quantitative modelling and interdisciplinary research fields.
Being a Data Scientist in ANZ bank currently, Zuhe is focusing on designing experiments and
developing machine learning and statistical methods for a personalised recommendation
system. When working at IBM Research Australia, Zuhe evaluated different word-embedding
techniques in natural language processing and built an effective machine learning model for
Senior Data Analyst
Victorian Centre for Data Insights
Growing up as a big fan of maths, I didn’t hesitate to go for a maths-related degree in uni. I majored in pure and applied maths in a Bachelor of Science.
In 2011, I decided to further my adventure with maths, particularly with statistics. I got the opportunity of studying maths and statistics at the University of Melbourne as a master student and completed my degree in 2013. The two-year program truly enlightened me as to what a wide range of interesting jobs I can do with fun applications of maths and statistics.
Since graduating, I have worked in several industries as a data science professional, within both the public and private sectors. Currently I’m a senior data analyst with the Victorian Centre for Data Insights. My major task is to help people understand their problems as well as solve the problems through the use of maths and statistics.
I’ve been enjoying working with numbers and formulas and am thrilled to see how they magically deliver value to my clients. Recently I’ve been particularly interested in better policy making for public service and welfare via the good use of data.