I am constantly hearing from my students, “When will I use this in real life?” I have been a Middle School math teacher for the last three years and this year I am transferring to my district’s Jr High so I will be teaching higher leveled math. This change is making me think, just how often will my students really use what I am teaching them in class?

Many things students learn, especially in early math classes, are easily applicable to future uses. However, as they get older, and the math more difficult, it becomes harder to find examples of everyday use. There are always exceptions and I don’t think any student should be limited in their class opportunities. If a student wants to take math and continue on to higher classes than they should be able to. My question to you though is:

### Should every student be expected to take higher level math?

#### Positives to Taking Higher Math

- Extends future career opportunities
- Higher logical thinking skills
- Earns college credit

#### Alternatives to Taking Higher Math

- Focus on stronger subjects like reading, writing, technology, science, PE, art, music, or history
- Creates opportunities for more trade school classes
- Creates more business or financial development math classes

I love teaching math and I love teaching to each of my student’s unique abilities. Being able to see them persevere through hard times and grow as a student is very inspiring. I would love to teach to every student and show them how beautiful all math can be, but I know that not all of my students appreciates math as much as I do and that they can still be successful in life without it.

What a great discussion post question? I think that best you can do is just be honest with kids. I like you list about positives or taking higher level math and and the alternatives. I think laying it out to a high school students in those terms could be highly beneficial. I feel students are super motivated and possibly see themselves in careers, or who are just really interested in math, will appreciate hight level math. And having students who aren’t quite sure yet about their careers and future plans can focus on other areas as they continue to develop through high school.

I bowed out after trigonometry in high school and never looked back. I kinda new by my Junior year that I was on track to be a teacher or possibly a social worker so it was nice to have the option to focus on other subjects rater than struggling through an advanced math class.

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I know that I love math and that I love being able to use it everyday, but I do know that others are different and enjoy working with words or their hands. I know that it is important for every student to get an opportunity to learn complex math and I am more than willing to teach it to all of my students, but I do know that some of them will be more successful in other classes and in life with or with out the higher math. It is a fine line between not teaching students higher math and allowing them to choose their own path, but it is one I think is worth a discussion.

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I believe that every student should not be expected to take a higher level math classes. If a student chooses not to take a higher level math class, they should be required to take some sort of personal finance class where the focus is on developing budgets and taxes. These are skills that every one needs to have regardless of your career.

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Yes, students should take higher-level math classes. You bring up the alternatives having them take science or technology classes in their place. However, dumping a kid into a physics class without teaching them math first is like dumping a kid into a Spanish literature course without teaching them Spanish first. Math is the language that allows the technology and science classes to make sense, and they can’t really exist in a vacuum.

Arrays in programming are much harder to understand if you haven’t seen a matrix before, and good luck figuring out projectile motion in a physics class without a passing knowledge of conic sections. Even putting aside specific examples, teaching them to logically follow a problem from start to finish is an invaluable skill when doing computer programming or other technology fields.

With that said, higher-level math classes could certainly incorporate more real-world examples so that students can better connect what they are doing to real life. There is also an argument to be made that perhaps different math subjects (usually statistics) should be taught instead of algebra. However, whichever math is being taught, higher-level math is a valuable thing to study whether they use it directly in everyday life or not.

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I think you are slightly misunderstanding my thought process. If a student wishes to take a physics class that demands a pre-requisite of higher math then of course they must take the higher math that would accompany the content that is going to be taught. The same can be said for a student wishing to take some technology or other science classes. My argument is that students who wish to go in to other, non mathematical based subjects, could put better use to their higher leveled credits for their future plans. If a student isn’t sure what they want, then they can stay on the traditional timeline, but if a student knows that they want to be a historian or librarian, why not let them take more subject specific classes instead of trigonometry.

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You could make the same argument about any other subject. What would an engineer need with English literature? What would an auto mechanic need with Marbury v. Madison? There are a lot of things that we teach students that won’t have immediate application to their future professional lives as they foresee them in middle school and high school, but we do it to help give them a firm foundation of cultural and technical knowledge that they can use professionally and personally.

Additionally, I disagree with your characterization of social science degrees needing less in the way of math and technical knowledge to be successful. More and more often technology works its way into professions that had no need for it before. Historians and archeologists are increasingly turning to tools such as aerial lidar surveys to find lost areas, and without knowledge of math and science to help them interpret the results, the tools would not be as effective. Librarians are moving from card files to electronic databases, and they will want a basic knowledge of matrices should they need to try and create one themselves.

Instead of getting rid of math classes, I think the focus should be on finding ways to make the math more engaging to students generally. Some argue that the way to go is to replace advanced algebra with statistics (https://goo.gl/GLB79m). Some say that the best way is to ditch calculations and focus on problem-solving (https://youtu.be/60OVlfAUPJg). Others say that making the problems more realistic helps to engage students (https://youtu.be/NWUFjb8w9Ps). Regardless, I don’t think less math will prepare the historians of the future, but better, more generalized math.

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