“If you stop at general math, you’re only going to make general math money, ” says Snoop Dogg, a top rap artist. Even celebrities understand how important it is to have a strong math foundation to be successful in your career and life.
Sure, you may not need to know how to factor a polynomial or graph the inverse of an equation after you graduate, but as you practice and learn these concepts you will strengthen your ability to reason and think logically. This will carry you through all levels of school, give you an edge in any job, and help you make wiser life decisions.
So let’s take a quick look at the numerous ways math truly is important.
Why study math?
Today, learning and understanding math is more important than ever. Our jobs, daily lives, and financial health all depend on our math-based abilities and our logic, reasoning, and problem-solving skills. Don’t write off math with the false assumption that “I will never need to know this in the future.”
As the world’s reliance on technology continues to grow in breadth and complexity, so too does the demand on us to think in mathematical and logical terms at work and at home. In fact, technical jobs make up about 1/3 of all employment opportunities today and that number will only continue to increase.
While people can still get a good job and succeed day-to-day without an advanced math degree, a lack in foundational math competencies can and will drastically limit a student’s opportunities, successes, and confidence throughout school and beyond.
“No employment can be managed without arithmetic, no mechanical invention without geometry.” – Benjamin Franklin
Importance of math in school
Throughout K-12th grade and on into college, students learn math skills, and those skills build one on top of the next. A strong foundation in algebra, for example, sets the stage for more advanced understanding later in trigonometry. Kids who struggle with adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing positive and negative numbers, fractions, decimals, and variables should be helped immediately. A lack of understanding only snowballs; these foundational manipulations of numbers comprise the cornerstone of success in all future math lessons.
And the saying “I don’t need to know this because I’ll use my calculator” does not cut it either. True understanding of these mathematical concepts builds brain power and leads to deeper understanding of later concepts. Relying on a calculator is like swimming with floaties on your arms. If you never learn to swim without the flotation devices, you will drown if they are taken away.
Strong math skills in elementary school lay the groundwork for strong skills in junior high and into high school where a student’s GPA and SAT or ACT test score play a huge role in scholarships for college and entrance to universities of choice.
“I tell students that even if they don’t like math right now, they can use math as a brain-sharpening tool – a tool that not only builds the foundation for a great career, but that also builds self-confidence, no matter what they choose to do with their lives.”
– Danica McKellar (star of The Wonder Years TV show)
Importance of math in careers
All jobs require basic math skills. More and more jobs require far more than that. And this is not just for the obvious ones like “scientist,” “math teacher,” and “engineer.” Strong math skills are proven necessary in fields like:
- healthcare (using MRI machines and other equipment)
- politics (polling)
- sports (Did you see Money Ball with Brad Pitt?)
- gaming (designing games / computer programming)
- movie making (CGI: computer generated imagery)
- air traffic control (during peak travel there are about 50,000 planes in the air over the U.S. – that takes a lot of technical coordination!)
- entrepreneurship or business (billing clients, paying employees, taxes, and analyzing data to improve marketing)
- stock broker / investment adviser (lots of math is needed when working in the financial sector)
- music production (did you know that mp3’s were created using a mathematical compression algorithm?)
- architecture (lots of math is needed for designing and building!)
- forensics (collect and measure evidence, analyzing data, apply statistics)
- and the list goes on!
“You want to know how to rhyme, then learn how to add. It’s mathematics.” – Mos Def
Importance of math for life
If after high school you never again have to graph a line in the form y = mx + b (slope-intercept form), fine. But the thinking skills you developed learning the rules and practicing the procedure of problem-solving and graphing are permanent improvements to your logical thinking capacities and overall brain power! There is great intellectual benefit from applying rules in a step-by-step manner to derive a solution. Math trains the brain.
“If a man’s wit be wandering, let him study mathematics.” – Sir Francis Bacon
Making more wise financial decisions
Some people think that they do not need to know math because anything involving it they can pass on to someone else (an accountant, a financial adviser, a spouse) or something else (a calculator, a computer program), but the fact of the matter is that a solid understanding of math will help you make better financial decisions with your money from your first $1 earned to the millions you may one day earn as a successful __(fill-in-the-blank-with-your-dream)__. Furthermore, you want to know enough never to be taken advantage of financially.
“If you stop at general math, you’re only going to make general math money.” – Snoop Dogg
Weak math skills can hold you back
This quote below is from Professor Kemeny who was a well-respected mathematician, computer scientist, and educator best known for co-developing the BASIC programming language in 1964 and pioneering the use of computers in college education. He saw even back in the 1960s just how important math is and would become for all of us to function well in this highly technologically advanced world. Weak math skills will stunt students’ capacity for understanding and functioning in an increasingly complex and tech-savvy society.
“The man ignorant of mathematics will be increasingly limited in his grasp of the main forces of civilization.” – John Kemeny
Things you may not have considered
The study of mathematics reveals even more connections between things we may have otherwise described as purely artistic or spiritual. Math is everywhere!
“Mathematics expresses values that reflect the cosmos, including orderliness, balance, harmony, logic, and abstract beauty.” – Deepak Chopra
#1: Defeat negative self-talk or stereotypes
Do not let stereotypes and negative self-fulfilling prophecies hold your child back! The first step to helping with this is to hide (or repair) your own negative perceptions about math. Kids pick up on your own anxiety and dislike, then they emulate it whether purposefully or unconsciously.
“There’s no reason to stereotype yourself. Doing math is like going to the gym – it’s a workout for your brain and it makes you smarter.” – Danica McKellar
#2: Make math fun. Practice often.
Practice leads to mastery. So, make ‘practicing’ math natural, easy, and fun. Work math into your daily interactions with your kids and make it entertaining.
“When I cook with my son, I might chop vegetables and have fun with different shapes. Cooking is a way to teach kids about other things, like reading or math with all of the weights and measures. There are so many things that are part of cooking that are also very educational.” – Emeril Lagasse (famous chef)
#3: Never let your kids give up
The only way to truly fail in math or at life is to give up. Getting a bad test score or botching a homework assignment is just an opportunity to learn and improve. Encourage your kids to pick themselves back up, keep practicing, and celebrate successes.
“Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.” – Henry Ford
The Answer to the Riddle
To answer the riddle posed in the title of this article, we look to one last quote from the famous Galileo who once said, “If I were again beginning my studies, I would follow the advice of Plato and start with mathematics.” So here we see that Snoop Dogg and Galileo have an understanding very much in common: math is important!