How much math do you really need in everyday life?

G. V. Ramanathan, emeritus professor of mathematics, statistics, and computer science, asks in the Washington Post:


How much math do you really need in everyday life? Ask yourself that -- and also the next 10 people you meet, say, your plumber, your lawyer, your grocer, your mechanic, your physician or even a math teacher.

Unlike literature, history, politics and music, math has little relevance to everyday life. That courses such as "Quantitative Reasoning" improve critical thinking is an unsubstantiated myth. All the mathematics one needs in real life can be learned in early years without much fuss. Most adults have no contact with math at work, nor do they curl up with an algebra book for relaxation.

Those who do love math and science have been doing very well. Our graduate schools are the best in the world. This "nation at risk" has produced about 140 Nobel laureates since 1983 (about as many as before 1983).

As for the rest, there is no obligation to love math any more than grammar, composition, curfew or washing up after dinner.

[Can we add cursive handwriting to the list in his last paragraph?!]

This is an interesting argument. Your plumber, lawyer, grocer, mechanic, physician, and/or math teacher also might say that literature, history, or even politics or music has little place in his or her life right now. That may not mean, however, that there’s little worth in having learned about the discipline.

How much math (or any subject) do folks need in everyday life? And how much math (or any subject) should students take in school beyond whatever that is (and why)?

[hat tip to Tim Stahmer]

Image credit: Deep down inside we all love math T-shirt

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