Sunday, October 5, 2014

Math for Everyday - Fall 2014

I wanted to post this thought out there to create some discussion and debate.

We are continuously hearing reports about how our students are "failing" when it comes to numeracy and math all over our country. Is it that our kids aren't meeting the standards, or is it that our curriculum isn't meeting the standards of today's kids.

It seems that many students stop taking Math for one simple reason, it scares them.

Student's are so used to being assessed in their numeracy and literacy skills and ranked or compared to their similar aged counter parts; that the interest in Math has seemly decreased.

Today's student has everything at their finger tips, even if they aren't sure how to graph the quadratic equation, they can find a video on youtube or even come up with the correct answer through another blog post or even google's own graphing calculator.

What are these kids really learning? What is learning without understanding?

A great deal of our students do not go on to University or College and pursue degrees in Business or Finance; why are we forcing them through a curriculum in high school that is only catering to a select few individuals.

I find that many students are lacking basic everyday Math skills.

Students need to understand Math and all other aspects of Math that come with living in the real world. Many kids don't know anything about interest rates and loans or mortgages. Or even how to calculate percentages or ratios. Something as simple as multiplication and addition skills have gone by the wayside with the invention of the smartphone.

The smartphone can be useful to obtain a great deal of knowledge, but what the smartphone cannot do is provide problem solving and reasoning skills.

I know there isn't really a direct focus to my blog post, but does anyone have any insights that they would like to share?


  1. I see you have many concerns relating to the math curriculum and what we have chosen to teach in Ontario. I know many students feel much the same way that you do and when I was a student going through this curriculum I felt much the same way. That being said, I still enjoyed the math classes, and usually got enough out of them to get me through the year. My background aside, I now feel it is very important to be exposed to math as much as possible for a broad number of reasons: skills development, understanding the world around us, functional elasticity, and a personal understanding that allows us to flourish as individuals.
    While students are learning the math curriculum they are also developing skills which are valuable across the curriculum. Learning how to organize your thoughts (math is the subject where this is taught most explicitly) and communicate effectively your goals is one of the biggest assets to the math classroom. If a student has to focus enough to explain why x+y=10 and 2x+4y+16 can tell you that there are 3 cows and 7 chickens on a farm, than that student will find it much easier to explain why Romeo killed himself at the end of Shakespeare’s classic. The analytic reasoning used in almost all branches of math are also present in the sciences, business, computer programming, and many other, if not all, subjects.
    More and more these days the objects around us are becoming incredibly complex. Electronics are in our homes, in our pockets, and soon to be strapped to our wrists and heads. Our cars have computers, refrigerators and toasters are being manufactured with Wi-Fi. All of these electronics are based on mathematical principals and each uses math each and every day. The less we understand of the fundamental principles underlying the tools around us the less we are able to understand the tools around us. If you don’t understand how to calculate your vehicles fuel economy how can you tell if the gage is working properly. Sure you don’t want to have to manually calculate how many kms you can travel to a tank of gas, but if your car tells you to pull over after 50km wouldn’t it be nice to check and make sure it is working properly? Without a foundation in mathematics you cannot understand how these things work.
    Functional elasticity is a fancy term that I just made up, it means the ability to function in more than one role. If students decide to give up on math in grade 7 because they will never need to know exponents, translations, or any other part of the curriculum than they will be limited to a future where their only options are those that don’t use math. There are jobs out there that do not require much math. I have a history in transportation and while my math background benefited me in the situation, many of my coworkers functioned quite well without much math background. But what happens if, like myself, you decide to pursue a different career path? If you only have enough math to be a dispatcher you may find that you don’t have very many other options left to you. Graphing is used all across the business and financial sectors, and while computers generate the graphs, users need to understand, interpret, and manipulate both the background data and the display. Lacking a high school level math limits students far beyond what would have been the case for someone forty years ago. Forklift drivers need to be able to calculate volume and weight distribution as a part of their everyday math. Some factory jobs require in-depth knowledge of mathematics, manipulating machines using transformation matrices is only a small part of the math that a C.N.C machinist uses every day. Welders, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, flooring salesmen all use advanced math every day. Without the foundation of mathematics in school all those doors would be closed to people who want to change jobs.

  2. ... Continued (sorry for the long post)
    Even jobs where an understanding of math is not a requirement will be easier and done better when the knowledge and skills gained in a classroom are applied. While I cannot provide a specific example off the top of my head I can remember using math in many unexpected places while in the working world, it is amazing how many situations can be modeled by the intersection of two lines. When building a fence in my back yard I had to compare different methods to determine which would minimize my cost. Sure I could have asked at the hardware store and hoped they gave me the right answer, but I felt more secure when I calculated costs and materials myself and knew that I had done it correctly. Personal finances are a complete mystery to millions of people in North America. Canadians and Americans wake up every day shocked to find out that they are in debt. Interest rates, debit and credit, and transaction fees all play a part in determining personal finances and if you just blindly follow the information you are given by someone else, yes even google, than you will never know for sure how your choices will impact you over the long term. Most people are shocked to find out that over the course of a twenty-five year mortgage you pay more than fifty percent of the home value in interest. That means that a mortgage of $100,000 over twenty-five years at a normal interest rate (%4 in this example) means you pay 58,000 in interest. Knowing how to calculate this sort of information may make a very big difference in how you plan for your future, and math is the key to allowing you to understand your personal life and flourish rather than flounder lost and confused. Sure the tools are readily available, but if you don’t know how to use and evaluate them they lose their value.