Why we need math

As of late, there has been a sudden onslaught of people claiming that a number of mathematic courses are not needed, that it ultimately should be dropped from high school curriculum and courses such as Algebra I and II and Geometry do not prepare students for the real world.

The main reason many claim as to why these mathematic courses should no longer be taught is that they do not sharpen quantitative reasoning skills, which therein lies the mistake.

People are trying to judge a fish on his ability to climb a tree instead of his ability to swim, so too do we judge mathematics when the ultimate goal of the subject is to not teach quantitative reasoning skills, but rather to think.

Let me clarify on what I mean by thinking.

Math teaches us how to solve problems first and foremost. Does it help with quantitative reasoning, yes it does, but that is more of a secondary benefit.

When a teacher gives a lesson in mathematics the goal is not for the student to memorize steps one through ten to solve a problem, but to learn how to approach the problem because at the end of the day there is no end all be all that will solve everything that will come across a student’s desk.

For me, if I say find the acceleration or velocity, I want my students to think second and first derivative of their position function, but when I ask for something they have never done before, they still have the tools to attack the problem and find their own method of solving.

Another jab at mathematics is that it does not prepare people to do their taxes, tipping, and other basic life skills. My main remark to this is why should we cover this in a mathematics course, especially when tipping is just percentages and those are indeed covered, but also for a more fundamental reason. In my opinion mathematics is being blamed for people’s inability to function in society, so instead of blaming the system, why not blame the person?

The last remark that is brought up a lot in regards to mathematics is that it should not be used in deciding whether or not someone should be admitted to a college or considered for a scholarship. On this subject I have a mixed opinion.

Do I believe a student’s semester grades should be considered, yes I do. Do I believe mathematics should be used on college entrance exams like the SAT, ACT, and GRE, that is where the line becomes grey for me. Mathematics is needed for these tests to help weed out the weaker students, but it should not be the sole reason why someone should not get into a program or a scholarship.

Mathematics is a subject that needs to remain in the curriculum, however there needs to be some changes, especially in how it is taught and what is stressed.

It is more than a table of equations or values, mathematics is a way to solve your problems and hone skills that cannot be exercised in any other subject.

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