why do we learn math in school

Many kids ask their math teacher why learning a particular mathematical concept or skill is important. When helping kids out with their homework, many parents may wonder the same thing. Mark H. Karwan, the Dean of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Buffalo, points out that parental attitudes -- positive or negative -- can influence childrenБs attitudes about math, and ultimately their performance. Encourage your child to excel in this area, as heБll have increased functioning and opportunities in his life and career as a result. In the 1920s, the teaching of algebra and geometry in the United States was regarded as an Бintellectual luxury. Б In fact, the Massachusetts Commissioner of Education referred to algebra as a Бuseless subject,Б according to author David Klein in his paper "A Brief History of of American K-12 Mathematics Education in the 20th Century. " During this time, students were taught basic math skills that had immediate practical applications. After World War II, policymakers began to advocate for a stronger math curriculum, a movement that increased with the space race of the 1950s. In the 21st century, schools are working to increase studentsБ higher math skills so that the citizens of the United States can be competitive in a global economy. Math teaches logic and order. You can expect a mathematical equation to have a predictable outcome, and precise steps must be followed in order to attain that result. The discipline of mind that children develop in math class can carry over into everyday life. Companies know this, as some businesses will hire math majors based on the presumption that students who are good at math have learned how to think. Math can also provide a vehicle through which critical-thinking skills are put into practice and refined.


An example of mathematical critical thinking is when students are required to explain how they arrived at a solution to a complex problem or to describe the ideas behind a formula or procedure. It is next to impossible to live an independent life without basic math skills. Children begin to learn about money in the early elementary grades, and in later grades can calculate percentages and fractions. People must have these skills in order to follow a recipe, evaluate whether or not an item on clearance is a good deal and manage a budget, among other things. Financial analyst Mike Walker points out that kids must be proficient at math in order to buy a car without getting taken for Бthe wrong kind of ride. Б
Even entry-level jobs in fields seemingly unrelated to mathematics require math skills. Cashiers must be able to count money accurately, while a customer service representative may need to be able to discuss a discrepancy in a customerБs bill. Students who are skilled at math and who seek a higher degree will find that high-paying careers such as engineering, medicine and research become available to them. Students who are not interested in these careers must nonetheless have advanced math skills, as they are required to graduate with a bachelorБs degree in any field. Students who have better math skills than their peers may obtain scholarships based on their superior performance on assessment tests such as the SAT and ACT. Students may ask why math is necessary, but quality math instruction must ensure that this question is asked infrequently. Instruction should incorporate techniques that are designed to demonstrate to children the relevancy of math to their daily lives, the world around them and their future careers.


Math teachers must strive to provide a real-world context for the skills that they teach and must tell students the rationale behind the concept they are teaching. Mathematics is a powerful tool with many applications. Advanced mathematical training can lead to many career opportunities, including business, finance, medicine, engineering, and basic sciences. At the same time, mathematics is a self-contained subject that is worth studying simply for its elegance. While challenging at times, the study of mathematics can bring a tremendous sense of accomplishment. Mathematics is an ideal subject for people who enjoy abstract thinking. The following story illustrates the particular perspective that mathematics offers. Two anthropologists and a mathematician were arguing about why humans had domesticated fire. One anthropologist argued that humans needed fire primarily to stay warm at night. The other anthropologist insisted that humans needed fire primarily to cook food. The mathematician proposed that some ancient human had been intrigued by fire and decided to figure out how it worked. Only later, suggested the mathematician, did others come along and find uses for fire. Students who earn degrees in mathematics pursue diverse careers. The sponsors a website with a wealth of information for students who are contemplating how mathematics will fit into their future. Professional graduate schools, including law schools and medical schools, look favorably on applications from mathematics students. Engineers and computer programmers need strong mathematical tools in order to do their jobs. Statisticians are employed in both the public and private sectors in positions which require data analysis. Actuaries provide statistical analysis for insurance companies and other large organizations.


Mathematics teachers are in great demand at grade schools, high schools, and community colleges. Business managers frequently have a strong mathematical background. Mathematics trains people to make careful analytical decisions. The Department of Mathematics takes pride in the quality and variety of opportunities available to our students. Internationally Recognized Faculty: The department has a large faculty of over 30 professors who, in addition to teaching, are engaged in research in many areas of pure mathematics, applied mathematics, and statistics. Teaching Excellence: Five members of our faculty have received the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. The quality of our instructional programs is a top priority. Our students interact with and take even basic mathematics courses from outstanding faculty. Small Class Size and Individual Attention: Courses for non-majors contain at most 35 students. Courses for majors are even smaller. Professors have the opportunity to know each of their students and to engage in personal contact during office hours. Course Selection: Undergraduate courses are offered at a variety of times to accommodate both day and night students. Courses are scheduled so that part-time as well as full-time students have full access to all required courses. Learning Support Services: The Department of Mathematics offers special programs and support services to provide the greatest opportunity for all students to succeed in mathematics courses. These programs include a free mathematics tutoring service available to all students. Research Opportunities: Mathematics majors at the undergraduate level have the opportunity to participate in innovative and highly successful research groups.

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