Think about your life without a fundamental understanding of math: You would not be able to read a clock, tell someone your age, read a recipe or make any calculations. Undeniably, a basic comprehension of simple math is necessary to function in today’s world. But how does higher, more abstract math help you in day-to-day life? Does solving for a variable or memorizing complex formulas serve any real-world purpose?
Community High School (CHS) junior Raffi Avedissian considers math his least favorite subject. As an aspiring filmmaker, Avedissian considers himself more “English-oriented” and puts more emphasis on his English courses.
“I decided not to take semester two of Precalculus this year,” Avedissian said. “It frees up my schedule and allows me to take a CR at MSU.” Avedissian would rather optimize his classes to his aspirations than take a course he is not particularly interested in.
CHS senior Natalie Mycek-Card has had a volatile relationship with math over the course of her school years. Mycek-Card thinks her success in a math class was more of a reflection of the teacher than her work ethic: In middle school she found 8th grade math challenging, but flourished in 10th grade math.
“I do enjoy math when it’s making sense,” Mycek-Card said. “My forum teacher made math easy for me because of her teaching style.”
Mycek-Card has considered going into math-based professions such as biomedical engineering, but still is considering her options. Regardless of what Mycek-Card does with her future, she wants her math skills to stay up to par.
“Math is considered the universal language,” Mycek-Card said. “[Doing math] is a skill I want to have despite my profession.”
CHS physics teacher Jonathan Thomas-Palmer felt like math classes were esoteric and disconnected from reality growing up. But when he found his passion for physics, he was able to connect the dots from his high school math courses and use it as a definitive tool.
Thomas-Palmer thought making matrices in precalculus was tedious and unnecessary. In physics, he was able to directly apply his knowledge of matrices and reduced-row-echelon form for electrical circuit models.
“Sir Isaac Newton is responsible for a lot of calculus,” Thomas-Palmer said. “He wasn’t a mathematician, but math was his gateway into physics.”
Thomas-Palmer encourages students to learn advanced math even if they do not understand its purpose. “My wife is a therapist and has her own private practice,” Thomas-Palmer said. “You don’t think of therapy as a heavily math based profession, but she is constantly dealing with involved calculations: From managing money coming from various healthcare companies and staying on top of her own finances.”
So is higher math a necessary tool to survive adulthood?
Yes and no. Regardless of your liking to the subject you will be forced to use math in one way or another: Whether you are managing money or reading a cookbook, you are constantly exposed to situations that require advanced problem solving skills. Plus, math could open doors in your future profession and life that you never saw before.