I’m a former English major who happens to love math. I find elegance – and some solace – in an ever-complex world when I discover a cadence or logic in nature, such as the Fibonacci sequence in broccoli or the patterns of a snowflake. And as someone working to improve STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), I know that it’s critical for young people to master mathematical concepts so they’ll be prepared for both college and career.
One way to bring math to life for young people is to teach them about those great thinkers who found mathematical elegance in the complexities of the world around them. One resource is Minds of Modern Mathematics, a free iPad app from IBM that illustrates the impact of math on culture and society. In the same way that science and engineering can help us connect mathematical principles to practical applications, an examination of the history of mathematical ideas can help us contextualize them in our world.
Another way to engender students’ love of math is through hands-on learning. Sites like Teachers TryScience, which provide teachers with engaging and informative project-based lessons, integrated with pedagogical and practical resources to teach them effectively, require students to apply math skills as they build a wind turbine or determine the amount of carbon stored in a tree.
Most jobs today require a knowledge of math. And high-demand, high-paying careers need young women and men from all backgrounds who can perform complex mathematics. Even “no math” jobs require people who can think in mathematical ways. For example, a lawyer uses skills that enable her to reason logically and methodically – the same skills that she began mastering while studying algebra.
Grace Suh is a Senior Program Manager with IBM Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs.