Volume XXXIV, Number 13

Why Study Math?

As an instructor of students in the area of mathematics, I am sometimes asked such questions as, “When am I ever going to use this?” or “Why do I have to study math?” I usually take the time to go over the list of reasons why studying mathematics is important. Since mathematics is a required subject for almost every course of study, it is important that students understand its importance to their own education. We live in a world which primarily operates on math. Developing good mathematical skills opens doors to productive futures. A lack of mathematical skills closes doors. I owe it to my students to prepare them well for life in the mathematical world in which they will live. It is estimated that someone entering the workforce today may have between 12 and 15 jobs over the course of his/her lifetime. The ability to learn quickly and to recall information accurately are necessary skills to develop as people change jobs throughout their lives. Learning math improves those skills. I use math problems in a classroom setting to determine how well developed those skills are and to give students opportunities to practice them. We learn how and where to apply certain math formulas, and test on the material to determine if the students have learned and whether they can now recall it accurately. It is a very efficient way for me, the instructor, to determine if the student needs some help. Employers are looking for three basic traits. They want their employees to be able to reason, work with technical equipment, and communicate well with other employees. Learning math helps to develop reasoning skills and proficiency in working with technical equipment. Using math can improve the ability to speak and write more clearly. Written communication, at least the type needed for work, tends to be extremely structured; and mathematical ability helps deal with that structure. Developing abstract reasoning skills that algebra teaches...