One of the most frequent complaints you hear from students of all ages – and just about everybody else – is that they hate math. Arithmetic, algebra, trigonometry, AP calculus, Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometries: At some point, we have all said we hate one or the other of them, if not all of them. However, it’s simply a subject in school, and after high school or maybe college, you can simply forget about it and never deal with it again. Right?
Wrong! While it may be your most difficult subject, it’s also one of the most useful tools you will ever possess, and one of a few things you simply can’t function without in life. Take it from an English major: Math is everywhere, in every profession and everything you do in life.
There are, of course, the usual examples of how math plays a major role in each person’s life. Without basic arithmetic skills, you simply cannot balance your checkbook or your bank accounts. And you can forget about finding the best deals on a clearance sale if you don’t understand percent change problems! Even fairly mundane tasks are impossible without a bit of math. Cooking and baking, for example, are equal parts math and chemistry, regardless of whether you eye the amount of olive oil in your dish or carefully measure out the cup of flour for your pound cake.
Even beyond those things, math is unavoidable, especially in your career, and not just in negotiating your salary.
Everyone knows that certain careers demand a great deal of skill in math. Architects, computer programmers and NASA scientists all obviously know their math backwards, forwards and inside out. Engineers, for example, require math to apply scientific principles, such as gravity and thermodynamics, to real world problems. The perfection of this application of theory to reality has brought forth such simple inventions as the incandescent light bulb, as well as the infinitely more complex electric car. Also, going back to those NASA scientists, the Apollo 11 space program put men on the moon with less computing power than in today’s average graphing calculator, simply because they understood the math and the numbers so well.
While impressive, these are all obvious career choices for the math-inclined, so how does math come up in other occupations?
For those more inclined towards the arts, the application of math may be less precise, but it remains equally important. A budding young artist must be able to judge proportions, a very math-based concept, in order to render an image that looks like its original. Further, even Pablo Picasso had to use math to make his own frames and stretch his own canvas. English teachers, too, require math in order to average grades for their students and to understand the different meters in poetry, from Emily Dickinson’s hymn meter to Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter.
Every conceivable career you could consider requires at least some application of math. Doctors use math to determine dosages of medications, while lawyers must figure out how much to seek in damages in a suit. Politicians rely on it to gauge public opinion and to set budgets on a massive scale, and bankers use math to judge the risk of investments. In a million little ways, each career requires some working knowledge of math, and the better you learn the math now, the easier it will be for you when your job requires it.