The vast majority of students will not become scientists, mathematicians or engineers. Why does a strong foundation in basic mathematics skills matter? The answer has much to do with our shrinking job base in manufacturing and low skill jobs. The jobs of our new economy increasingly demand the use and understanding of technological tools and concepts. These tools and concepts are better put to use by those who have a sound grounding in elementary and high school mathematics.
Many jobs now require employees who can understand project data, including interpreting graphs and charts. Some positions require understanding of how the concepts of expenditures and income affect a budget. A price increase of, let’s say, five percent may make a project infeasible after all the numbers are analyzed. Job seekers who possess these basic skills will have an advantage in the marketplace. Those who don’t possess these skills will face increasingly difficult odds.
Aside from the purely defensive point of view of getting left behind by increasing job market competition, these basic skills will make the individual a better citizen. Participation in civic life will be more rich, meaningful and rewarding for those who have passed a threshold of basic mathematics skills. The government’s tax policies, national energy policy and budget deficits affect everybody. A full understanding of these issues hinge on a grasp of basic mathematics.
Mathematics teaches some basic functional skills such as reasoning and problem-solving. Innovation and discovery are suppressed and in many cases choked to death without the proper exposure to instruction in basic skills.
The world we live in today with electronic tools at almost everyone’s disposal may give some a false sense of security. Even with tools such as calculators and computers to handle much of the computation, being able to identify the necessary operations is still important.
Finally, those a with a decent background in basic arithmetic and mathematical concepts are less likely to be conned by sophisticated marketing that attempts to mislead by the clever use of numbers.