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.