Frequent Questions & Answers for VCE Maths Methods

November 11, 2020joelleva

"Do I even need it?"

If you've picked Methods as a VCE subject, chances are you're planning to go into something numbersy at university, like maybe a Science degree or Commerce. If you're in that boat then - take it from a uni student - you will use Methods. Even if it's not a prerequisite for your degree, any course that involves numbers will require you to learn what is covered in Methods at some point, so why not get stuck in now!

But even if you're planning to do a degree in Visual Arts and just live in hiding from maths your entire life, you never know what you might end up doing in the future. I moved to my degree in science after a year in a Bachelor of Music, and having a few high school maths credits saved many headaches in the move across. If you can handle the workload, Methods is a really handy subject to have in your back pocket and opens up a lot of options if you're unsure about where you're going to end up.

"How hard does it get?"

A lot of my students ask this at the start of a school year, having heard horror stories from teachers or past students about the legendary difficulty of Methods and its infamous Exam 2. Methods is a pretty hard subject, I'm not going to deny it, but with a good worth ethic and a bit of self-belief, you can reach your goals. And that's kind of the point- not everyone is going to get a raw 50, but if you set yourself realistic goals you will be able to reach them. At the start of the year and throughout the year, have an attainable goal in mind, and if you put in the work, the goal will be possible.

In fact the difficulty of Methods means that it can be far more satisfying to study than other subjects. In some other subjects it is easy to understand the content but it takes hours and hours of practice to be able to perform in the exam, however in Methods you will get an immediate reward by just understanding the content. And this is something you can do. It takes practice and patience, but I would argue that an intuitive understanding of the content prepares you for the exam better than almost anything else.

"Does this have any real-world application?"

Look, we can all relate to suffering through pages of quadratic equations or sitting a brutal tech-free test and tearfully wondering what the point of it all is. And I'd be lying if I said that you use logarithm arithmetic when you're going to the shops to buy milk, but Methods is actually surprisingly applied. Believe it or not, the techniques you use to sketch and analyse graphs (especially calculus) are used in pretty much any career from business (e.g. charting the performance of share prices) to medicine (e.g. monitoring drug concentration in blood) to scientific research (like… all of it). Plus, probability and statistics might seem painful but they're already being hailed by pretty much everyone as the skills to have in the modern workforce. It's true that calculators and computers can do a lot of this stuff  but they're only tools- and unless you understand the logic behind how they work, they won't do you much good. Methods aims to teach you the theory behind these very important skills and concepts and prepare you to use them in the workforce.

But here's the thing, even if you don't use the exact skills you learn in Methods in a job, you'll definitely take something away from the way Methods teaches you to think. You've probably heard English teachers nervously give the same answer to the question "why do we bother learning about Shakespeare?" but it's true! English teaches you how to communicate and to articulate an argument and Methods teaches you to problem solve and to think  systematically. It might seem pretty arcane sometimes but it's actually very good preparation for the workforce and it's worth persisting with.

"Why should I do Methods and not just Further Maths?"

Further is mostly geared at students who want some maths on their resume without too much hassle. It teaches you the essential maths skills you need for business, teaching etc. and most students find it a fairly gentle follow-up to year 10 maths. Methods is a definite increase in difficulty from year 10, however it offers a much more comprehensive survey of mathematical techniques like graph theory, calculus and probability. It's mainly aimed at students who intend to pursue science or commerce at university following their VCE.

Methods also keeps a lot of doors open. I have a friend who originally planned to study Fine Arts at university and dropped Methods for Further in year 11. However he decided halfway through a gap year that he wanted to study science instead. Since he didn't have Methods as a prerequisite, he couldn't get his top preference for university and had to take his first year in a different institution.

Both subjects have their pros and cons, but if it's within your reach, Methods is a very useful and comprehensive subject to have under your belt.

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