By Lucy Liu
It is believed that in the United States, passion and love for mathematics is going downhill, despite the fact that education in the United States is considered one of the best educations a student can get in the world. Why is that?
The United States is one of the few, if not only, countries that teaches math by forcing students to memorize formulas and procedures. Students miss out on the fun parts of math, such as solving mathematical puzzles, experimenting, and discovering patterns for themselves. By teaching students only formulas and how to plug in numbers, they miss the bigger picture, especially the various uses of mathematics outside of schoolwork and in the real world.
Constant memorization and tedious work needed to solve problems often resulted in students who endured, or even detested, going into math class. With the lack of real-world math applications in class, students often find real-world math problems, such as calculating taxes, much harder and stray from math. Even students who once loved math can give up on the limitless number of formulas, homework, and tests required in math class. In fact, rather than a student who only memorizes school taught math formulas and applications, a students who is able to apply school taught math to real-world scenarios and manipulate numbers is far more prepared for college math and life afterwards.
What can a parent, or student, do to prevent the further decline of mathematical interest?
Parents can start with simple games that require their younger children to use logic and problem solving. Despite the claims that games are bad for children, teaching students to think logically a few steps ahead, such as in chess or checkers, can be much more affective than hours of studying SAT practice booklets a month before the exam. For older students, math clubs such as OCMC are great opportunities for students to learn more about the applications in math and the enjoyment that comes with it. Participating in math Olympiads and mathematics competitions such as the American Mathematics Competition (AMC) expose new problems and applications to students that are otherwise not taught in school.
Although teaching students how to use numbers and formulas may be useful in the future, if the student chooses a field of study that requires constant use of formulas, normal-everyday application of math is different altogether. To ensure that a student is prepared for the real-world, teachers, parents, or the student themselves should find real-world applications for the math taught in school. In fact, the constant application will help the student in school as well, with the increased problem solving versatility that comes with extra practice.