I just had a moment of absolute star-shock. No, I didn’t randomly encounter a celebrity, but I did run into my MATH1040 lecturer from my first year of my science degree.

He bumped into me as I was walking to my regular coffee hangout to grab a coffee. He asked how what I was doing these days, and I replied with monosyllabic answers, until I blurted out in a high-pitched geek voice about how much I enjoyed MATH1040 and how his efforts were instrumental in getting me to my PhD. I guess I didn’t realise how much I revered this guy until now. This mathematical man-god helped me realise that maths is actually relevant, necessary, and yes, even fun.

You have to understand that previous to my career re-imagining, I had failed maths in high school. Although an understanding of logarithms wasn’t necessary for a successful music career, deep down I think I felt a little disappointed that I didn’t try.

But the thing is, you need a reason to try. During high school, my teachers never gave me that reason. It was all numbers and letters, and apparently if you arranged numbers and letters in a certain way, the abstract laws of mathematics allowed you to change them into an alternate arrangement of letters and numbers. That was it – that was as far as they ever went. No wonder I didn’t have a reason to care.

I guess starting a science degree was a good reason to care, but I was faced with the reality that I needed to ‘pass’ Year 11/12 mathematics – or MATH1040 –  to gain entry to the Bachelor of Science degree at UQ. To be honest, I was a little scared. Having a qualified maths teacher as a wife helped, but I was still pretty damn apprehensive – afraid of those same feelings of meaninglessness. However, my MATH1040 lecturer was kick-ass. He taught us in a respectful way, understanding that most of us were likely high-school failures or drop-outs. This didn’t matter to him. He showed us that maths is a tool, used by pretty much every scientific discipline to answer real-world scientific questions, and we even applied our very simple math tools to interesting questions.

I got a ‘7’ for MATH1040 (pass with high distinction), quite different from my ‘D’ in high school. I came away from MATH1040 feeling like I could do anything, and I owe my MATH1040 lecturer for that. Since then I’ve finished my degree, received a first-class honours and have started a PhD with substantial scholarship support, and it all started with this course.

Thanks Michael, you mathematical man-god.

-Scott.