Why is Math So Important?

Why is Math So Important? first appeared on Sums & Solutions on January 7, 2014.
By: Mike Lefkowitz 
The most frequent word one hears today in all education and business circles is STEM. We need to educate all students in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in order to be competitive in the 21st century global economy. This issue has gained significant momentum over the last few years and is reaching critical mass but we still have a long way to go in raising the level of our education and student achievement in these fields in order to fulfill the increasing demand for qualified employees our corporations and universities need in the Information Age.
As I look at these four fields and think about my own career, my education started with a very solid foundation in Mathematics throughout elementary and high school. This enabled me to study Electrical Engineering, get a Master degree and then get involved and make contributions in the field of Communications Technology. These in some ways added to the advancement of Science. No matter which way I look at it, Math came first and foremost and was at the core of my success. Science, Technology and Engineering, so essential to the future success of our country, cannot thrive without practitioners having a solid mathematics foundation.
The importance of a solid mathematics education goes much beyond the current conversation of improved proficiency on test scores. I have used the word mathematics very frequently in my education and career but never until recently thought about the actual meaning of the word. Once I looked from an Etymology perspective, I found interesting literal definitions in two ancient languages. In Greek, it is “learning.” In Hebrew, it’s root is “thinking.”
They tell us that mathematics gives us the critical ability to learn and think logically in any field of endeavor. The skills of learning today are more important than knowledge, which is so readily available on the Internet. To quote the futurist Alvin Toffler, “The illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but, rather those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” A solid foundation in mathematics and science develops and hones the skills of posing hypotheses, designing experiments and controls, analyzing data, recognizing patterns, seeking evidence, conclusions and proof, solving problems and seeking absolutes, while being open to new information. Studying mathematics not only will develop more engineers and scientists, but also produce more citizens who can learn and think creatively and critically, no matter their career fields. The workforce of tomorrow, in all fields, will demand it.
Teaching methods used today stress memorization and the use of calculators. Students are taught by rote instead of analyzing and understanding, with the primary focus placed on test scores. Test scores are essential but not sufficient. If we believe that the objective of a quality education for our children is to develop the skills associated with learning and thinking, we need to do much more. New and innovative learning programs need to be implemented, integrating available technology to stimulate students’ creativity, imagination and confidence. They need more hands-on and contextual learning in order to spark their curiosity and enjoyment of learning.
ST Math, the unique math learning curriculum developed by the MIND Research Institute, has been recognized nationally by educators and business leaders, with close to 650,000 students across the country benefiting from it. The curriculum is based on computer games and visual learning, with students progressing at their own pace and teachers having close to real time feedback on student progress. Having fun and building confidence while learning the key principles of mathematics develops the love of learning, missing so terribly in today’s education system.
Mike Lefkowitz is president of The Semel Group, and a long-term member of the Board of Directors of the MIND Research Institute.
MIND Research Institute is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.

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