Math is a fundamental skill required for college and to attract employers. My friend Don is an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at Seattle Pacific University. He shares some great insights about the importance of teaching math in high school.
“Math requirements vary by school. You don’t necessarily have to have extra math to get into a college, but you do need it to be well educated. Upper level math can train your mind. Math is a good discipline, and teaches problem solving in a variety of subjects, beyond math."
Math is an excellent way to learn real-life skills critical to getting a good job. Employers want problem-solving skills, determination,persistence, and hard work. They want job-seakers who will strive until they solve a problem and get the job done. They want workers who know what it's like to work hard. These soft skills aren't taught by teachers, by they can be learned through pursuing math and keeping children challenged with their subjects.
“Societal expectations have a lot to do with math achievement. I met a Japanese student going into business, and he actually apologized for ONLY having two years of calculus. In the US, our math expectations are so much lower than the rest of the world. We project those low expectations onto kids even from the grade school level; telling them that math is so hard and it’s no fun. That promotes a negative view of math. It is a cultural issue that trains children to think ‘I can’t do this.’ The only real solution is a cultural shift in the perception of math."
Colleges are looking for students that have the best math preparation possible for that student. It doesn't mean you have to teach calculus to every child, but it does mean they want you to work conscientiously on math every year.
Don't let your own weaknesses in math cause frustration in your children. Not all of us are gourmet cooks, but we can still hand our child a cookbook. Treat math in a matter-of-fact way, without conveying your own anxiety. You can explain that your child needs to learn how to learn math on their own, with great video tutorials, without telling them it's your anxiety that gets in the way of teaching it yourself.
“Math is fundamental to science and engineering. Right now many of our country’s science and engineering professionals are nearing retirement, yet there are few up-and-coming students able to take those jobs. There are too few people with the math skills necessary to take those jobs. Foreign technical workers are taking those technical jobs, because there are simply too few US students who can do the work. For example, right now there is a deficit of aerospace engineers, and they can’t find people to fill those jobs for defense contracts."
Because there is a deficit of engineers, and fundamental math skills may be lacking in public school graduates, homeschoolers have the advantage. We can provide the math students need to succeed. Our children can earn grants and scholarships for college based on their math preparation.
“Math is fundamental for all students going into engineering sciences. I have had many students over the years who want to go into engineering but stumble on the math. They may have made good engineers, but they couldn’t take the math. Because this is such a large national problem, the government is working on solutions. Grant money from US government and corporations is promoting science and math curriculum and providing hands-on curriculum for math and science. There needs to be a revolution on how science is taught in grade school and middle school. Portray math as fun and exciting! It can be done!”
Thanks go to Don Peter, M.S., P.E., Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at Seattle Pacific University for helping me with this blog post. Don and his wife JoAnn homeschooled their two daughters for many years. Don used Saxon math and multi-sensory games for a supplement. His family used unit studies for science. He made it clear that his children were required to complete science and math study, and even required his girls to complete calculus for high school graduation.
To encourage a love of math in the younger grades, as Don Peter recommends, I used the book Family Math. It is filled with fun math games and activities for grades K-8. We played math games frequently during the week, and my children loved it! In middle school I used the book Family Math for Middle School, and Patty Paper Geometry. In the upper levels, I tried to encourage the love of math using Teaching Company lectures like "Calculus Made Clear" and others.
If you have identified that math is a weak area in your homeschool, you may enjoy my blog post called "First Things First" which will teach you how to prioritize math. For more help with math, see my article "For the Love of Math"