Counting to success

Jenna Liu

Learn to count and you’ll graduate high school. According to a study by Greg Duncan at the University of California Irvine, this seemingly peculiar assertion actually has some truth to it. Duncan found that child’s math knowledge at an early age was the biggest factor in whether or not they graduated high school and attended college.
This correlation between math ability and general academic success is one that is present in junior Jae Rhee’s scholastic career. The all-around excellent student said math is something that has always come easily to her; even so, she still needs to study hard to achieve good grades, something that she said has fostered a good work ethic in other classes as well.
“When you try so hard for math you usually try hard for other classes as well,” Rhee said. “Furthermore, [math] gives the ability to think in a coherent, logical way.”
RBHS AP Calculus teacher Dennis Fitzgerald echoed this sentiment, saying mathematics is crucial to developing certain skills necessary for success in life. As a teacher, Fitzgerald can identify that those at the top of the class usually share some common traits.
“The people that do well are the ones that work hard and are organized,” Fitzgerald said.
“I think it has to do with motivation, but I also think it’s the ability to organize your time and your brain and do things logically.”
The importance of early exposure to math is gaining more recognition with elementary teacher education at the university level placing increased emphasis on math skills, Fitzgerald said.
While sophomore Sarah Bai did have exposure to math at an early age, it has not fostered any warm feelings towards the subject. Yet though Bai’s math class will never be her favorite class, she still recognizes its merits.
“I think that math specifically yields better results just because it challenges your brain in ways that other classes don’t,” Bai said. “But I don’t believe it’s just math that does this.”
Research has shown that reading also is a crucial factor towards an individual’s higher education success, with a study released in 2011 by the American Educational Research Association showing that students who do not read proficiently by the third grade are four times less likely to graduate high school on time. Fitzgerald said he thinks reading and math go hand in hand and are both necessary for future academic success.
“I think math is a building block, but I think English is the same way,” Fitzgerald said. “I think both reading and mathematics are very sequential and once you start falling behind it is hard to catch up.”
By Jenna Liu
Feature Photo by Jenna Liu