Now, I know a few of you will say, "What about engineers and designers and people who build rocket ships?" I would ask you, "What percentage of the population actually falls into that category?" An overwhelmingly small one, I would guess. So, what do you use your higher math skills for? I mean anything over Algebra.
So, armed with my theory of the Futility of Teaching Mathematics, I enter math classes with a certain mix of dread and disdain. I dread that a kid will ask me a question that I am unable to figure out, especially considering that I cannot remember the difference between an integer and a real number, or if there is a difference at all. The disdain comes from the discovery that, in adult life, I have managed not to need that information. When the kids ask why I don't like math, I say, "That's why I chose History!"
This week, I was in a high school math class. I loved this teacher. My job fell into the category of "start the video"...even though they were not watching movies. All they were doing was working on some worksheets. I hardly even glanced at the worksheets other than to note that I might have chucked them in the bin if some teacher had given them to me. The kids were awesome, though. They had a strange culture among them. They...helped...each other. Yes, those that got it willingly helped those who struggled. I suppose my own classmates might have done that for me in school, but I tended to ignore such things at the time and don't remember such a camaraderie in math class. I was totally impressed.
When I handed out one sheet, I told a class, "...and if you need any help..." and I chuckled a mirthless chuckle, "good luck, that's why I'm a history teacher." If we had been in an auditorium, I think I may have gotten a standing ovation! The kids all laughed at that. They were great though, and I DID try to help as best I could.
Much of my time was spent relaxing and watching them work. They were surprisingly diligent.
So, yeah, I'm not a big fan of higher order mathematics. I don't do much myself, but I respect those who do, even though I think it's a bit of a joke to teach it writers, historians, and cashiers. I AM a fan of spaceships, bridges, and cellphones, though.
Did I mention I have rarely met a cashier that actually even used lower math? Yeah, well, maybe I'll write about stupid cashiers next time.