Once kids move past learning basic algebra, it can be hard for them to understand why math class is necessary. After all, it’s even hard for teachers to explain why it’s good to have the quadratic formula memorized outside math class, and asymptotes and sine waves don’t exactly come up in everyday conversations. At least, not for most people. Plus, with so much knowledge available via the computers in students’ pockets, memorizing equations hardly seems relevant.
But all teachers and tutors know it’s crucial for kids to take math class seriously. Not only to achieve better grades, but because math truly is an important subject! In my opinion, the most important. While solving for x doesn’t always seem like a pressing skill, math is about much more than finding right answers and plotting points on graphs. Here are five reasons why math class is vital for the developing minds of teenagers and preteens.
- Math is All Around Us
Not to exaggerate, but math is literally all around us! And I don’t mean posters of multiplication tables and lists of complicated equations. The fact is, every hard science—from physics to biology to neurochemistry—has its basis in math, and these are the laws that dictate the natural world. Everything from the way we perceive light to the reason we tap our feet listening to music can be explained using math.
These connections might seem far-fetched, but they’re true. Math, more than anything else, is about finding and establishing patterns, and these mathematical patterns make up the world around us. Mathematical concepts like the Fibonacci Sequence show up in nature, explaining the patterns on snail shells and the shape of our DNA, and even musical scales have their basis in ancient mathematical discoveries. Math provides a set of building blocks for understanding the world around us, and when teenagers make this awesome connection, math doesn’t seem like a chore anymore. It becomes the key to understanding the world on a new level!
- Math Inspires Innovation
Without math, you wouldn’t be reading this on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. Those things wouldn’t exist. In fact, without math, the world would be entirely different. Virtually every advance in technology—from the ancient world to modern supercomputers—owes its invention to a breakthrough in mathematical theory or understanding. From ancient Greeks like Pythagoras (a2 + b2 = c2, anyone?) to 20th Century geniuses like Albert Einstein and Katherine Johnson (the woman who helped NASA put Neil Armstrong on the moon), mathematicians have been the people bringing humanity to new heights. It makes sense; since math is the language of the world, it’s also the thing to drive the world forward!
- All Jobs Use Math
Since math is so prevalent, it shouldn’t be any surprise that all jobs require a basic understanding of mathematics. And that doesn’t only mean jobs like computer science, engineering, and accounting. While math is a common denominator of incredibly lucrative careers like these, it’s also relevant in just about every other line of business. Statistics are a key part of understanding seemingly math-less careers like sports, marketing, business, and journalism, while geometric patterns play a crucial role in just about every art form, from photography to sculpture. No matter what a person is planning to do with their life, having a firm grasp on the relevant mathematical field will help them go above and beyond.
- Math Teaches the Learning Process
To many middle schoolers and high schoolers, math problems don’t seem like anything more than finding the right answer. This can be very frustrating, especially when the answer is hard to find! Humanities subjects like English are generally known for letting students be more creative and critical with their work, while math is supposedly a “yes or no” subject. But math is actually the best way to develop critical and creative problem-solving skills! When students are taught to apply previously learned concepts to a hard problem, tackle it from a new angle, and work longer and harder to find the right answer, they’re developing essential skills that carry over well outside the math classroom.
This is the biggest reason why math is so important. If students are to grow up and be hard-working, creative, critical, and analytical problem-solvers, they need to practice their math skills. Seeing a complicated equation and being discouraged doesn’t supplement their learning or enforce positive work habits, it teaches them to give up. More than teaching how to solve specific equations, math encourages students to engage in a critical learning process that will benefit them in all walks of life.
- All People are Math People
One rumor many students come face to face with is that they just aren’t a “math person.” Perhaps they failed a few tests, don’t understand a particular concept, or just can’t seem to make the necessary connections between multiple mathematical fields. They feel resigned, and they give up on math.
However, research shows that when students capacity for mathematics is actually consistent across the board. The way a student perceives their ability to perform well in math class is a major influencer on how they perform; if they don’t believe they’re good at math, they won’t be. But with the right amount of practice and mentorship, almost all students have the same capacity for understanding math! So next time your child or student seems like they’re about to give up, it might mean it’s time to step in and help them find a new angle.
The Final Equation
Math is an intimidating subject. Each new field of math is practically a new language, and many students feel like they’ll never be able to speak it fluently. The truth is, though, that math is one of the most vital things for all teenagers and preteens to practice. Not only is it an incredibly relevant subject, but the learning process kids encounter in math is one that has serious implications in other areas of life. And the best part is, all kids can be good at math with the proper guidance!