Math fosters independent minds


Photo Illustration by Sophie Eaton

Anna Xu

Math is the most hated on subject, often given harsh connotations from Grade Point Average (GPA) killer to the Math Monster. Suffering students and adults with past horror stories have questioned the purpose of learning math; some even propose to remove the requirement of math out of schools altogether and convert it to an elective.
To back their argument, they source studies claiming higher math requirements lead to some students failing and dropping out; however, while math may be hard, the benefits of persevering through difficult courses provide valuable assets to the brain.
Another common stereotype of math is it’s only useful for the future engineer, stock broker or some other ‘nerdy’ profession. Michael Jordan, the wealthiest basketball player of all time, however, majored in mathematics. Abraham Lincoln was obsessed with mathematics and “he studied and nearly mastered the Six-books of Euclid (geometry) since he was a member of Congress… often studying far into the night, with a candle near his pillow,” according to Lincoln’s 1860 autobiography.
Still, not only the elite can benefit from math. Just as weight training can improve one’s ability in a variety of sports, math functions the same way by developing the brain and harnessing different thinking methods. In math, one adjusts complicated functions to find simple values; to do so, one has to think critically and creatively to find the answer.
As one better understands arithmetic, one adopts quantitative perspectives, systemic methods, makes more rational connections and notices recurring patterns to tackle problems with logic. Logic and deductive reasoning are crucial to individuals as well as society to promote good argumentation and foster an independent mind. Those who undergo rigorous math are more able to pick at logical fallacies, question authority and not be foolish sheep to the mercy of others. While math enhances the judgment of a person as a whole, it is also helpful to a majority of careers, in contrary to the myth about how higher level math is nonconstructive to most employment.
For some careers, the highest levels of math may not be necessary, however, because the world is rapidly becoming more technologically advanced, higher level math is more applicable. For example, to predict the weather, stock market or even a patient’s medicine dosage, one must utilize calculus. A high understanding of math is also paramount to calculate precise measurement in architecture, business, mechanics, carpentry and the list goes on.
Additionally, society rewards those who pursue higher level math beyond high school. Math majors, on average, are the third highest earners, making 37.7 percent more than English majors, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers 2005 salary survey.
Math is also transferable to a plethora of career choices including business and law.
In the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) and Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), students with a math major outperformed every other major, scoring 12.8 percent and 13.3 percent above the average test taker, respectively, according to the National Institute of Education, amassing data of 550,000 college students over a period of 18 years.
Jeff Immelt, the CEO of the Fortune 500 Company GE, said his “most invaluable qualification is not the MBA [Masters of Business] — it’s his undergraduate degree in math.”
The last, most detrimental, misconception is only ‘smart’ people with an extraordinary Intelligent Quantity (IQ) can understand high level math, and everyone else just wasn’t born with it.
Absolutely not.
Everyone can learn and improve mathematical ability, and everyone can take high level math courses. Don’t discount oneself as “not a math person” when other peers receive higher marks because no test is the end all be all. Students should focus on their own progress, what matters, and not incessantly compare themselves to others.
Don’t let GPA be the excuse to cut short on math because, truly, it is the learning and the lifetime benefits of math that count. While it’s true not everyone is Albert Einstein, everyone can succeed at math through persistence and hard work. So go out, take a high level math course, and make friends with the Math Monster.
What math class do you take at Rock Bridge? Let us know if the comments below.