This study examined student perspectives about declining participation in mathematics in senior secondary schooling: what do students see as the causes of and solutions to the problem? 92 students, aged 15 to 17 years, from two large Australian comprehensive secondary schools were interviewed. Students' comments were analysed in the light of prevailing discourses surrounding mathematics. The reasons students gave for declining participation included: mathematics is boring; difficult; not useful; not well taught; and students are unaware of the importance of mathematics. Students' solutions included making mathematics more enjoyable and relevant; ensuring that students understand mathematics in earlier years; making students aware of the importance of mathematics; and making mathematics compulsory for the final years of schooling. Students argued that 'optional' senior mathematics significantly affects student motivation and effort in earlier school years. For some students, 'choice' may paradoxically lead to lost opportunity.