My last post was about the 3 reasons I thought it was important to learn math in school, even though students may not (probably won’t) use it in everyday life. The three reasons were 1) It’s part of the liberal curriculum that we’re trying to give students of the United States, 2) appreciation for the fact that mathematics is all around us, and 3) it allows us to think in a more organized and efficient way.
I also pointed out in my last post that my karate instructor, an attorney of 35 years, told me that he had never used the quadratic formula in his everyday life. There is another gentleman I know who is a retired attorney. He volunteers at my school, and helps me teach my math classes. Before he was an attorney he was a math teacher who worked in the Cleveland District at East High. He told me that he has used a lot of math in his work, and his background came in handy on several occasions.
Now both of these gentlemen are very intelligent individuals, and they both specialize(d) in matters of law where numbers are important, real estate law and commercial law respectively. Could it be that my karate instructor didn’t use the quadratic formula (or any other type of math like this) because he didn’t know that it could help him? Is it possible that my community volunteer only used math because he knew how to apply it, even though he could have gotten the work done without it? Maybe.
I think another answer to “what’s the point of this?”, which really plays into all three of the above sections, is jobs. Now it’s partially the fault of the schools, curriculum deciders, and teachers (I am guilty) that mathematics becomes the cold and dry subject. But it’s also the fault of the students not to apply what they know to the fields that they enter. But regardless of whether or not people use math in the workplace, the fact is that it can be used in the workplace, and it would be very beneficial to use it in the workplace.
One area of mathematics called discrete mathematics deals with logic and proofs. The world would be a much better place if everyone took discrete mathematics and understood how to apply it. There are the obvious examples like computer programming (a job), which is all logic. But then there less obvious but really important examples like noticing when a politicians make claims that are logically unsound. Sometimes is takes someone trained, but not highly trained, to see the flaw his his/her logic. Then there are geeks like me, who use logic to most efficiently make coffee in the morning (no joke).
If I can use logic, an application of mathematics, to make my coffee in the morning, then I’m sure I would find someway of applying math and logic to my occupation (if it wasn’t being a math teacher). I’m not saying that I would have to use math, nor am I saying that I’d go out of my way to use math. It would just be so ingrained in me, that I’d be using it anyways. This hits on all 3 reasons mentioned above. The logic helps you think in a more organized and efficient manner, it’s part of the curriculum because nobody knows what career path (s)he will choose and how math might play a role, and it’s extremely satisfying knowing that you have come up with a new unique solution to a problem.
This is nice and all, but what about the jobs that will really require the use of higher level mathematics? Let’s see for part 3.