“Useless” Math Classes: How to fix them…

I have Jenn Arch to thank for inspiring this post. I read her post called The Most Legitimate Reason Writers Will Never Use A Math Course and then I posted some tongue-and-cheek smack-talk in her comments. I encourage you to go and check out the post.

Jenn’s post is (by her own admission to me) a bit of a venting session regarding her being required to take a math class as part of her college coursework training for a career in writing, which she feels is completely unnecessary. In her defense, she is also willing to sympathize with math people who are forced by the same paradigm to take required writing courses.

Especially in this day and age, I feel that just because someone wants to move into the work force one day, doesn’t mean they should be forced to take math courses, especially if all the basics were taken in high school. This being said, I’m not taking sides and rallying a war against math (would be nice though, huh?) because I know there are math-minded people who feel the same about writing classes because the particular career they’re pursuing focuses more on numbers than words.

So, math teachers? What have we done? What are we doing? You think Jenn is alone? You think Jenn is unique in this regard? Doubtful… And how many math people will be willing to make the same impassioned (and well-written) argument against their being forced to take a writing class? We need to fix this. The sooner the better.

Here is the main issue: we in the math teaching profession have allowed several misconceptions to prevail.

Misconception #1 – Math is about numbers. Writing is about words. Wordy people write. Numbery people math.

Misconception #2 – The influx of handy-dandy computerized technology has lessened the need for mathematically proficient common folk.

Misconception #3 – The value of math class is defined by the eventual occupation of the student in the class.

Misconception #4 – The main purpose of math class is to transmit skills that can be later used to earn money.

Imagine Jenn (and others in her shoes) taking a math class with those thoughts in her mind. An aspiring writer taking a class with those as the pillars of the hidden curriculum would feel very bitter (especially at a couple hundred bucks per credit hour). Math teachers? We need to fix this.

I will be posting on each on of these individually because I feel like all of these points are misconceptions and I would like to do my part to present an argument that will give a different perspective to these thoughts.

Math teachers? Let’s fix this. We have done a disservice to people who feel like Jenn feels.

Are there other misconceptions that you know? Load the comments with them.


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