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Not Knowing Math? The Sine of a Problem

Edited by Ann Marie Elpa 

If you’ve talked to me about school for more than 2 minutes, you’ve probably heard me say something along the lines of “I hate math,” “I could listen to nails scratching a blackboard for 5 hours if that meant I didn’t have to do math today,” and “Math freaking sucks.” The irony of this is that when applying for university programs, I decided to go into Computer Science – a field in which I have to take various types of math, including calculus, linear algebra, and statistics.

Live Footage of Me Doing Math

It’s funny looking back on it, since I can remember distinctly in high school, my calculus teacher would often show us more complex math at the end of the class and say “This will be really helpful if you go into a math-type field in university!” I remember saying, “Yeah, that’s NEVER happening,” packing up my books and going on my way. The truth is, especially in high school, I really did like math – I just wasn’t very good at it. That’s why I wrote off basically any degree that required a significant amount of math. However, recently I realized that one of the key reasons I wasn’t good at math is because I had a fixed mindset. By thinking, “Yeah, I suck at math,” and other negative thoughts, you ultimately stop yourself from learning. By having a growth mindset, or the idea that you can develop talents and abilities, you open yourself up to more learning. I decided to comprise a list of why math is so important to motivate myself and others to stay open about learning math.

Math Plays a Role in our Everyday Lives

I know that not everyone has their heart set out on being an engineer or a mathematician, however, learning how to do math helps in terms of critical problem solving. We face countless of problems a day, and studying math helps our brains become more used to critically analyzing and problem solving. You may be thinking – this word problem about a ball and it’s velocity has no use to me, but it does in implicit ways! The way that you’re forced to understand the problem, identify known variables, figure out what needs to be solved – these analytical skills can help you greatly in your everyday life.

Good for Brain Development

Research by Dr. Tanya Evans of Stanford University shows that people who perform well in math use certain brain areas more reliably than those who perform poorly. The brain regions that are involved with higher math skills in high-performing children were related to several cognitive tasks that involved attention and decision making. This study ultimately implies that the regions that help you solve math are also recruited in decision making and attentional processes. Learning math will help you make better decisions!

Finances

Budgets, savings, stocks – all of these are inevitable in your future. Being comfortable with math allows you to be more comfortable with your finances as well.

Careers

Practically every career requires some degree or math. While in some careers it is more evident, such as scientists and mathematicians, others are less explicit. For example, working at a cash register requires some basic math. Working at a factory requires keeping track of parts and sometimes having to use geometric properties (such as dimensions).

Math is Everywhere!

The number pi is everywhere! For example, the ratio of a river’s length to the distance from the source to its mouth is called the “meandering ratio.” The average meandering ratio of rivers approaches the number pi! Another example is the Fibonacci sequence, a famous sequence of numbers in mathematics, which is found everywhere in nature – pinecones, flowers, leaves, and seashells.

Shopping

I absolutely love to shop, and math can definitely help in terms of figuring out sale prices. Through knowledge of percentages, you can quickly find out how much a sale item is without having to whip out your phone’s calculator.

Math in the Future

Math is becoming more important in many industries. Future politicians will rely more on analyzing data, teachers will rely more on numbers and technology, and future mechanics will use optimization electronics and analysis as much as they use a hammer and nails. It is therefore important, whatever field that you go into, that you are at least comfortable with math.

Different Kind of Thinking

A lot of classes that you end up taking involve memorization. However, with math, you learn a different kind of thinking – problem solving and thinking logically. These are important tools for anyone to have.

Basically, whatever you decide to do in life, basic knowledge of mathematics will be helpful in one way or another. I hope that people reading this article decide not to write off math forever, since it truly is a very important aspect of our lives. Next time you go to a foreign country and you don’t know the language – don’t fear! Math is a universal language that everyone will understand!

 

Kashaf is a second year student at the University of Toronto working towards a Computer Science Specialist and a Psychology Minor. Along with being a writer for Her Campus, she serves as Director of Events for Scientista and is a High School Outreach Ambassador for Women in Science & Engineering. Some of her favourite things include sushi, Gossip Girl, and Justin Bieber.
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