By Katie Oldfield

WE all know that maths plays a fundamental part in everyday life – from budgeting to working out how much sugar to put in a cake. Every day we measure, monitor and multiply without thinking too much about the skills that we’re using.

Maths also has a crucial role in responding to critical world events. Current global crises such as Covid-19 and tackling climate change rely heavily upon mathematicians to help with solutions.

This week sees the return of Maths Week Scotland, and this year’s theme is "Our World" – a particularly timely topic, as Scotland prepares to host one of the most significant environmental events in our history, the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26.

The aim of Maths Week Scotland is to transform Scotland into a maths-positive nation through raising the profile of maths and building enthusiasm across the country. As we wait to hear the decisions of the world’s leaders at COP26, the significance of maths and inspiring future generations has never been more relevant.

In 2020, the Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland launched the Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan. The focus of this is the need for "green skills" and "green jobs" to help meet climate targets. Maths plays a central role in the plan, from monitoring and analysing big data to coding and artificial intelligence. New jobs will need to be created and many existing jobs will need to adapt significantly.

The transition to net zero will take place over the next 25 years, but we need to act now. If we’re relying on children to be our future, we need to arm them with the relevant skills to fix the problems created by previous generations. A significant ramping up of "green" skills is required to achieve net zero targets, but we also need to make sure that young people feel passionate enough to take on the challenge and to choose subjects that will take them down these crucial career paths.

This week, more than 65,000 pupils and many more thousands of families are exploring the world through maths. Schools, learning institutions, community groups, museums and science centres have received 89 grants to develop maths-based projects, themed around "our world" with the intention to inspire, enthuse and educate.

Activities range from investigating the natural environment for early years – nature walks and using maths to understand and appreciate the world around them – to monitoring the effects of air pollution and studying data, demonstrating how statistics help us understand environmental issues.

These activities give some insight into the bigger picture when it comes to maths and tackling climate change. Big data sets are a key part of the solution, including tracking temperatures, analysing ocean patterns, and modelling and predicting weather systems. Mathematicians are working with scientists to monitor climate change, so we know how to respond.

Maths Week Scotland exists both to highlight the importance of maths in our working and everyday lives, but also to encourage a passion for and enjoyment of the subject. They say if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life, so let’s make sure maths is part of that equation.

Katie Oldfield is Maths Week Scotland co-ordinator. Maths Week Scotland is part of the Scottish Government’s drive to encourage positive attitudes to numeracy and maths and is developed and delivered by National Museums Scotland