I prefer words, but math has so many erroneous detractors that it really bothers me. I’ve read letters to the editor where people write that their kids should be taught useful things instead of algebra, and I’m willing to bet that whoever wrote it failed math class.
While I do believe we need better teaching methods in general (more use of the Socratic method, teachers that give you assignments that actually relate to the subject he/she is teaching, more class discussion in big and small groups, block classes for some subjects), I think eliminating any of the core classes for school—math, science, reading, writing and history—is stupid. Besides giving you a basic education in different subjects, they teach you skills that will cross over into whatever you want to do.
Math isn’t just about numbers; it’s about the application of different functions to find an answer. You are taught different skills that you can then use in a wide variety of places, as anyone who has taken advanced calculus can tell you. So while you may never actually use calculus in, say, getting your Masters of Fine Arts, it will teach your brain a method for arriving at solutions. You know. For when you’re trying to decide whether or not the job at Wal-Mart is better than the one at the supermarket (ouch!).
Besides. When you’re a kid, you rarely know what you want to be when you grow up. What if you get to twelfth grade ignoring math and you decide you want to be an engineer? Guess what! Unlike history, writing and even science, you can’t just go into a college calculus course and expect to pick up things, learn from there. See, each math course builds on what you’ve learned from the last. Once you master algebra, you have the tools to understand geometry. Once you have that, you can go for trigonometry and pre-calculus. From there, you can use those skills to master the different facets of calculus, as well as advanced science and engineering classes. You can’t pick it up in the middle and expect to understand it. It’s like a really complex movie.
This message brought to you by: all the people who have failed sixth grade algebra and insisted it’s because no one ever uses it.