The Importance of High School Math
If you are currently in, or were in high school, you have probably wondered when we would ever use the Pythagorean theorem or quadratic formula in our lives. Oftentimes I wonder, how would knowing how to find the x-value of a quadratic function help me in any way? That raises the question: how important is high school math?
In Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia, students are required to earn 3 compulsory mathematics credits to be able to graduate from high school. While in British Columbia and Quebec, high school students need to have 4 mathematics credits to graduate. This means that all over Canada, students must take at least 3 years of math, grade 9 to grade 11, but why is it compulsory to graduate unlike other courses like the sciences, arts, humanities?
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According to Ontario’s Ministry of Education (written in 2005 and revised), “today’s mathematics curriculum must prepare students for their future roles in society. It must equip them with essential mathematical knowledge and skills; with skills of reasoning, problem solving, and communication; and, most importantly, with the ability and the incentive to continue learning on their own.”
They explained that the curriculum is formed with the idea of the current fast-paced development in society that will have a heavy impact on students. Thus, they need to prepare students for their future role, by teaching them to adapt to changes, learn independently, develop problem-solving skills, think critically, and provide“the incentive to continue learning on their own.” Throughout the curriculum plan, the importance of math skills in the future workplace is expressed and repeated multiple times, as it is crucial to gain the "ability to use technology effectively and the skills for processing large amounts of quantitative information.”
Another importance of high school math is that by studying mathematics you can build problem-solving skills which can help us think analytically through a problem. Problem-solving is a universal skill that is useful for computer science, biology, financing, technology, engineering, and non-STEM-based careers in geography, humanities, and the arts. The purpose of grade 9 and 10 math is to reinforce the fundamental principles learned in elementary school and build a conceptual foundation in mathematics to prepare students for upper-level math, which includes algebraic skills and trigonometry.
The curriculum for grade 11 and 12 is there to prepare you for university-level math as it is needed for many careers and programs. Hence, if you are planning to apply to programs or careers that do not need math, it is not as important. It seems as if math is a compulsory course for so many years because, like English, the skills and concepts we learn are applicable to many career pathways.
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Now that I have explained the premise of a high school math curriculum, how important is math? In short-term, working hard in high school math is important for your short-term goals that could potentially affect your life. Like any other course, it is included on your transcript when you apply to university, so if you were to apply to a program that requires a grade 12 math course it is important that you are able to demonstrate you are able to understand high school math material well. High school math is probably the most important for STEM-focused careers because it prepares students for more difficult mathematical courses in university.
In the long run, you probably won’t remember anything from high school math unless your career uses math on a day to day basis, or if you become a high school math teacher. But the skills and basic foundation of math is important and will help in your future, even if you pick a career pathway that is not STEM-focused. Math is needed for financing, calculating taxes, managing money, cooking food, and really for any job. When you have a job, it requires you to use math since you have to interpret your paycheck and balance your budget using basic mental arithmetic.
In addition to math concepts, the skills from studying math are also carried into our future careers like “the seven mathematical processes identified in the high school math curriculum, problem solving, reasoning and proving, reflecting, selecting tools and computational strategies, connecting, representing, and communicating.” These are soft skills that are relevant to any career pathways. We also have to keep in mind the increasing importance of math in the future when technology will develop alongside society and the likely increase in demand for people who have math skills to process “large amounts of quantitative information” for the advancements in technology.
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Although we may never witness someone buy 97 watermelons on sale and need help with figuring out how much money was saved or use the Pythagorean theorem, math is important in life. Math is used everywhere and will be even more prevalent in the future with advancing technologies. Ultimately, the importance of high school math is dependent on your future career pathway - not everyone will need to solve complex formulas to prove a theory.
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Article Author: Kelley Liang
Article Editors: Maria Giroux, Valerie Shirobokov