Importance of math on the rise

By Paul Strike 2010

Mathematics. The word instills a warm fuzzy feeling in some students, a nauseating sensation in others. To these students, math may be just another class they take in high school that rattles their brains and makes them rue the day numbers enter their lives.

But the truth is, math is a vital tool that enables people to grow in thought and civilizations to make advancements that benefit our way of life. Thus, the importance of math is obvious: it helps people expand their ways of thinking, it opens doors for people that choose to pursue math, and it is used every day.

The ability to solve problems is one thing that people receive from math classes.

David Kofoed, a math teacher at Cedar Falls High School, believes that math fuels deeper thinking in students and better prepares them for challenges.

“Being able to analyze logically and learn new things – that’s what (math) is all about,” Kofoed said.

Another CFHS math teacher, Kristine Urbanek, also stresses the thinking that math preaches to its pupils.

“(You use) the overall thinking process quite a bit,” Urbanek said, “That is, if you choose to think through things.”

Logical thinking is an incredible ability that math nurtures, and it leads to many open doors for the people who take math seriously. A study from the University of Iowa showed a serious correlation between taking advanced math classes and having a better chance of having a higher income.

Thirty-nine and a half percent of people that completed Algebra II earn a bachelor’s degree, while 74.3% of Pre-Calc takers earn the BA and Calc completers 79.8%. Then, BA holders earn an average of $51,206 for an annual income. High school grads receive $27,915 per year and an advanced degree beyond a bachelor’s will get a person an average of $74,602. Obviously, these are clear-cut figures that show the direct importance of math in wages.

Getting a math major in college holds many good opportunities with it. Kofoed, who has taught at CFHS for 23 years, has also worked at John Deere and Chamberlain Mfg. as an industrial engineer.

“Although both jobs didn’t require high-level math, it was my math degree that got me in the door,” Kofoed said.

Careers in math are plentiful. The Wall Street Journal’s 2008 edition of its top-100 stable and available jobs named mathematical careers in its top three spots: mathematician, actuary, and statistician.

Even if students don’t pursue a math degree, math can still provide opportunities for them.

“You never want to close the door. What you decide now may not be what you end up doing,” Urbanek said.

Also, math does come in handy if you are looking to improve your life by taking up side-jobs or projects. Dirk Homewood is a CFHS math teacher who works in the summer in construction.

“There are a lot of geometry skills used within the trade. Everything from the Pythagorean Theorum to simple arithmetic are needed for construction of a home,” Homewood said. “I have made some money during the summer months, but also have reaped the benefits of remodeling my own home!”

Mathematics can be applied to life’s problems every day. Besides dealing with money, the application of critical thinking (obtained from math through problem solving) can be used in nearly any situation.

Take for instance the advancements in the medical and environmental fields. The fusion of science and math required to figure out problems in these fields also need good problem solving skills to put the knowledge to action and thus make breakthroughs.

“We are looking at things in much more depth such as medicine and the environment – just many challenges that require lots of analysis, creative thinking, technology, etc.,” Kofoed said.

The competitiveness in the workplace now also calls for better thinkers.

The world, with the introduction of incredible technology, has been flattened so that practically anyone at any place on earth with a computer or phone can enter the global market.

“Since our world is much more ‘global’ than it was 30 years ago, the competition is more fierce to produce in the market place,” Kofoed said.

These skills brought about by math are becoming more and more vital to survive in this competitive world.

Mathematics. The word is more than a school subject. It enables people to deepen their thought process, gives them incredible opportunities, and helps them solve problems they encounter every day.

The math field is made up of great thinkers and average people alike, and both groups take advantage of math’s benefits to improve their own lives.

So the token question of “When are we going to need to know this in the real world?” may seem like a logical thought at the time, but in time students will come to realize that math is of the utmost importance in their lives.

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