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Math and science aren't the most popular but they are important.

# Skills for Life: Math and Science

Math and science aren’t the most popular but they are important.

Take a minute to think about the following: When was the last time you made a mathematical calculation in your head or by hand (yes which means not using a calculator)? Surely, some of you avoid math like the plague — especially when your teenage child comes around looking for help on their math homework — but you must admit that even in this compalculator era it comes in handy to be able to tally your bills in your head or figure out the miles per gallon you’re getting while driving along in traffic.

Surely it seems reasonable to expect that people with high school diplomas and college degrees shouldn’t be afraid of a little algebra. We all took math in school, and although most of us struggled with the subject, and many of us hated every second of it, we did it and we got by. We got by, and it has helped us in some way or another while at college, work, or home. But if you thought math was hard for you, consider how hard your kids have it.

It shouldn’t be hard to understand why most American teenagers struggle with math and other basic subjects like science and English. Schools are overcrowded and rundown, teachers are underpaid and overworked, kids are over-stimulated and cannot focus, and administrators are forced to push testing over learning. The fact is that kids are left behind, and sadly, even when they’re not, they don’t always grasp what we think they do.

So if our high school math and science scores are dropping, our children are dreading these classes, and we ourselves can barely go through the times tables, then why aren’t we demanding real tutelage in math and science? Why is it socially acceptable not to understand fractions, percentages, and exponents, not to mention basic science principles that don’t change with time or opinion? One reason, I submit, is relativism.

Relativism allows everyone to be right, and puts our feelings ahead of everything else. We all know that it is not fun to find out that we are wrong about something, but a part of growing up is learning to cope with this negative feeling and learn from the experiences of failure. It would seem that many people today, however, would prefer to shield themselves and their children from ever being wrong or from feeling that hurt. This is true on the Little League diamond, where every player now makes the team, and in the school classrooms, where every assignment is given a modification to make sure every student can easily get by.

It also seems that children these days prefer not to study very much; I’m not sure if it’s because they are so busy with other things, or they just have been handed so much that the idea of hard work is foreign to them. But whatever the reason, it’s obvious to parents and teachers across America that kids aren’t putting in the effort to excel in math and science. One explanation may be because math and science generally demand specific solutions, meaning either a right or wrong student. So for a lot of kids who are scared to fail, or sadly even scared to try, math and science are just pushed away at all costs. Instead, more kids focus on subjects like History and English which tend to be more philosophical and interpretive which allows for more wiggle room and less hurt feelings. Don’t misinterpret my meaning, subjects like History and English are imperative to education and add great value to society, but they are not the only things our children should be learning. But the fact is that far more people study these subjects because their feelings won’t be hurt like in math or science, where strict guidelines and exact answers are expected. Unfortunately, 20% off will not make a \$40 shirt cost \$20 no matter how much you ‘feel’ that it should; the shirt would still cost you \$32. Also, science tells us that it is impossible to hear a bullet, because they travel faster than the speed of sound.

Do you really think that with the brain that either evolution handed down, or God bestowed upon us, we are incapable of learning science and math if we put our mind to it? Absolutely not! We can all learn everything taught in school, it merely requires effort, determination, and perseverance. And once learned it is empowering and enjoyable to utilize these new-learned skills. We must pass along this attitude to our children and demand that lawmakers, teachers, and administrators make math and science a priority in our schools again. Then we must put away our calculators, brush up on our arithmetic, and show our children that even old dogs can break out old tricks. We may not always need math and we may not always like science, but we must always learn and hone these valuable subjects and skills.

Written By

Dr. Williams is a nationally syndicated columnist, former chairman of the economics department at George Mason University, and author of More Liberty Means Less Government

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