How do you feel about math? Many people say they either love or hate math, with no middle ground. They think if they aren’t really good at it then they must be really badat it, or that if they don’t have a STEM job where they use math all the time then they will probably have a job where they don’t need it at all.
The reality is that none of these is true. Math is for everybody. It is sometimes called the “universal language” because everybody uses it and everybody needs it.
Math is all around us — we use it every day, often without even thinking about it. The math we use to calculate our grocery bill or plan out the mileage on a road trip is pretty obvious, but we use math in other ways that are not so obvious. According to Mike Lefkowitz of the Mind Research Institute, “mathematics gives us the critical ability to learn and think logically in any field of endeavor.” In this way, even thinking philosophically about an ethical issue utilizes skills that are honed by a good math education. Whether you’re comparing prices at the mall or comparing politicians on the ballot, you’re using critical math skills.
As for the idea that only STEM jobs require math, we have news for you: EVERY job requires some kind of math. While it may be more obvious how a neuroscientist or a software engineer uses math in their jobs, we have found that other careers require math in ways that are more subtle but just as pervasive. Planning to be a carefree jazz celebrity? You’ll need math for that. Do you think you’ll escape math if you focus on a career in the arts? Turns out artists need math too. Escaping into archaeology? Charting your own course as an entrepreneur? Yep, you guessed it, both require math.
In 1986 President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the week of April 14 through April 20 to be “National Mathematics Awareness Week.” Reagan spoke of the importance of math throughout history, but especially in that moment, in the burgeoning computer age:
“Since the time of its beginnings in Egypt and Mesopotamia some 5,000 years ago, progress in mathematical understanding has been a key ingredient of progress in science, commerce, and the arts. We have made astounding strides since from the theorems of Pythagoras to the set theory of Georg Cantor. In the era of the computer, more than ever before, mathematical knowledge and reasoning are essential to our increasingly technological world.”
Since then, computers have only gotten more intricate and ingrained in our everyday lives. As our technology has evolved, so has our need for people who are comfortable with math and well-trained in mathematical thinking and concepts.
“Despite the increasing importance of mathematics to the progress of our economy and society, enrollment in mathematics programs has been declining at all levels of the American educational system. Yet the application of mathematics is indispensable in such diverse fields as medicine, computer sciences, space exploration, the skilled trades, business, defense, and government. To help encourage the study and utilization of mathematics, it is appropriate that all Americans be reminded of the importance of this basic branch of science to our daily lives.”
Unfortunately, interest in math educational programs has not kept up with increasing demand for graduates with a mathematical specialty. These are the people who would fill the jobs in the ever-expanding fields of computer science, tech entrepreneurs, online security, and so much more.
The need for a basic awareness of the importance of math in our lives and economy is so great that since it was first proclaimed in 1986, the Mathematics Awareness Week has been expanded to the entire month of April, and been renamed as Mathematics And Statistics Awareness Month.
This Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month, make a time to make friends with math! Learn a little bit about interesting mathematicians throughout history, read an interesting book about math, or find some fun math games to practice with your friends and family.