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  • Writer's pictureRobert Ahdoot

Math in "real life"

"But Mr. Ahdoot, when will we need this in real life?"

Ah yes, that question is always around the corner, at least once per school year. In newsletters past, I have discussed some of the inter-workings of classroom dynamics. This time though, I would like to address my message in acknowledgement of those who are out of high school, as many of our viewers are.

So let's be real. I could spend time writing about how mathematics is in everything. How it is the only universal language that describes our world. Or how it unlocks all the technologies we use every day (phones, computers, GPS, etc.) And I'd be right, except the argument doesn't necessarily resonate with everyone.

I could take a step back and give you the tried and true argument, "You need this now to get good grades, to get a good SAT score, to get into a good college, to get a good job, then a good grad school, etc." Which has some truth to it. Colleges do look at math grades. However, getting into that prestigious college is no longer the surefire method of life success or fulfillment. (Was it ever?) For many people, college loans are so high that the justification for the cost becomes difficult when there is no job afterwards to pay down that debt.

Allow me to pause for a moment to reflect on jobs. Over a two-year period, the US Commerce Department reported a growth of 729,000 jobs at foreign offices of US companies. Over this same two-year period, 500,000 jobs were lost in the US. Besides reasoning that the cost of labor is less overseas, many companies bemoan the lack of domestic technical expertise in today's job pool. In fact, many sections of US markets have a job demand for engineers, to cope with our rising need here and step in for the retiring baby boom generation. For example, electric power and the plants that accompany them are on the rise, according to the US Department of Energy. That requires all forms of growth, within everything from new hires to new infrastructure. Engineering requires math and other technical skills. Thus "when will we need math in real life" is a question that can be answered. You will need it if you decide to take on a technical job, of which there are reasonably good prospects. According to the National Science Foundation, 80% of new jobs created in the next decade will require math and science skills.

Many of us though are not going into technical jobs, yet still need math. Through my wonderful experiences with Yay Math, I have become acquainted with so many folks who need to learn math simply to gain entrance to the next level of their careers. Entrance exams have math portions, which stand as gateways for a long list of careers, including nursing, paramedics, teaching, and just about any graduate program that requires the GRE or GMAT. Many times, people will not even consider a profession if they are fearful that math will be required to get in.

Yay Math is honored to assist the thousands of people who have used this service to help them perform well on their placement/entrance exams. The elation in people's tone when they write to share the good news is unmistakable.

Thus for many people, we actually need math in real life, if we decide to pursue a technical field. And many other people need math skills before "real life" begins, in the form of an entrance exam to their pursuits. Sounds all very real to me.

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