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Mathematician shares her skills at Nelson schools

Susan Milner, a mathematics instructor at University of the Fraser Valley who was raised in Nelson, was at Trafalgar middle school earlier this month to tell students about the importance of learning math.  - Sam Van Schie photo
Susan Milner, a mathematics instructor at University of the Fraser Valley who was raised in Nelson, was at Trafalgar middle school earlier this month to tell students about the importance of learning math.
— image credit: Sam Van Schie photo

Susan Milner can't stand the way many people say they can't do math.

"If they were telling you they couldn't read, you'd expect they'd be trying to do something to improve their skills," she said. "But with math, it's almost fashionable to be bad at it."

Milner, a mathematics instructor at University of the Fraser Valley who was raised in Nelson, was in town earlier this month visiting her parents and while here she volunteered to go around to schools to talk to students about where their math skills could take them.

"Our world runs on math," she said. "We don't have computers without it, we don't have business without it."

Also on the list of occupations that require a math skills: science, medicine, engineering, finance, and many more.

Milner said she's noticed that students tend to be most enthusiastic about math in the younger grades, but by middle school only about a third of students will admit to liking the subject. In high school, when math becomes optional for Grade 12 students, many will choose to drop it completely.

"Students think they just won't study math because it's not cool, and they're really closing doors on themselves and the type of jobs they could do in the future."

During her visits to schools, Milner showed students that math is more than just crunching numbers. She had them complete puzzles and games that require the same logic as solving equations.

"They're building their math skills without even realizing, because they're also have fun," Milner said.

From November 19 to 23, Milner visited Trafalgar middle school, South Nelson elementary and Hume elementary, and she plans to return in April to speak at to the schools she'll miss on this trip.

Her visits are organized by Science World BC through its Scientists and Innovators in the Schools program, white invites scientists, engineers, technologists and technicians to share their expertise with science classes around the province through hands-on activities.

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