“When am I ever going to use this?”
It’s the most dreaded question in the history of classroom instruction. But the most recent version of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card, shows why answering that question counts.
The students who strongly agreed with the statement, “Mathematics will help me in the future,” scored 25 points higher than those who disagreed. Overall, U.S. high school seniors’ scores in 2013 did not change from 2009 and represent a three-point increase (on a scale of 300) from 2005.
Answering this question takes more than pointing students to a word problem with a real-world context or even showing them a specific real-life example. Math skills are bigger than that. Understanding the concepts taught in math class prepares students to think critically and reason logically. Writers, analysts, lawyers, doctors, teachers, IT professionals — everyone uses these skills.
Learning math also strengthens the mind; according to philosopher Roger Bacon, “neglect of mathematics works injury to all knowledge, since he who is ignorant of it cannot know the other sciences or the things of the world.”
Or take it from Galileo: “[The universe] cannot be read until we have learnt the language and become familiar with the characters in which it is written. It is written in mathematical language, and the letters are triangles, circles and other geometrical figures, without which means it is humanly impossible to comprehend a single word.”