Pumphrey's Math

Patterns, everywhere

Why We Teach Math

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Last week ‘The Atlantic’ website published an article on how little, mathematics is used at work.  First of all an admission. Yes, there are not going to be many students who end up using complex numbers in their place of work. There will not be many who have to use trigonometry. However I believe this article completely misses the point of what mathematics education is all about. It just highlights the view of math that we see much of society holding, today. Why do colleges and employers still look out for those with at least some mathematical competency? What do they see that this article is missing?

Many would say that Math is about problem solving. I agree, that is involved. I think it goes far deeper than this, however. Mathematics is about the ability to see a pattern in the world (often between two or more changing variables) and to take it into the abstract to communicate this pattern and to be able to predict what may happen into the future. This principle is used in pretty much any job you could think of.

Demand –> Prices

Water purity –> Disease

Store layout –> Sales

Speed –> Fatalities

Practice –> Test scores

Time –> GDP

When everything stops changing, perhaps then we can shelve math education and just look at what is. I don’t think this will happen any time soon, though.

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Author: PumphreysMath

A British Math(s) Teacher now living in Indianapolis, USA, aiming to show my students how questions are often more important than answers. Presenter of the MathEd Out Podcast and contributor for the Guardian Teacher Network.

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