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Teaching Kids Why Math Matters (page 2)

Teaching Kids Why Math Matters

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Updated on Jun 10, 2014

Patriotic Reasons to Learn Math:

In her book Why Math Matters, Professor Jo Boaler argues that the future of our economy depends on our children getting a quality math education: “American students do not achieve well and they do not choose to study mathematics beyond basic courses, a situation that presents serious risks to the future medical, scientific, and technological advancement of society.”

The twentieth-century economic success of the United States was fueled by advances in science and technology, from Ford’s Model T to Apple’s Macintosh. Designing, building, and selling these technologies provided the jobs that have given us the world’s highest standard of living. And yet, the number of American students who choose math-related majors is falling, while the number is increasing in other countries.[2] 

To explore the reasons for this disparity, I spoke with Babak Darafshi, an electrical engineer who was born in Iran but earned his degrees in the United States. “The attitude when I was growing up, and to some extent still, is biased towards the prestige of engineers and doctors in the society," he explained. "This is generally true in many places outside of the US (developing or developed countries like China, India, Brazil, Korea, Taiwan). Math and physics as well as sciences are mandatory, considered ‘bread and butter’ areas of education and emphasized more heavily through high school at a more advanced level than even freshman college year in the US.” These other countries understand that rigorous math and science education is critical in creating the jobs that drive an economy, a perspective that our country is starting to lose.

In a recent speech about our troubled economy, President Obama remarked that “One of the changes that I would like to see…is once again seeing our best and our brightest commit themselves to making things. Engineers. Scientists. Innovators…building and making things that we can export to other countries.” If students are to meet the President’s goals, parents and educators must find ways to make mathematics appealing to children. In doing so, they will encourage them to pursue the careers that will once again secure America’s position as an innovative and economic leader.


[1] Restak , R. M. (2003). The new brain: How the modern age is rewiring your mind. Rodale Books.

[2] Science and Engineering Indicators, National Science Board, 2004.

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