by A. W., Palo Alto
Students whisper to each other in the back of the room; one student texts on his phone, while another pulls out his graphing calculator to cheat. The teacher’s constant attempts to make the class focus have failed. These students seem to have no interest in the subject at all, but sadly, their schools graduation requirements force them to take this subject. This lack of concentration and interest brings us up to an important question: should we require four years of math in school? No, schools should remove their four-year math requirements in order to free up time to students to pursue their own interests. We should remove the mandatory requirement that students should attend math classes for four years in high school because high school math is far too advanced for a normal desk job, and also because few students care about the subject.
Four years of mandatory math is unnecessary for a person’s success later on in life. Middle school teaches students Algebra, the most advanced subject in math a person will need if he plans to work on a non-STEM related job. People never use trigonometry to add up coins, calculus to manage employees, or geometry theorems to write news articles. These topics take up a majority of a student’s high school math classes, yet we never use them in daily life. Furthermore, the rarity and exclusivity of these jobs make them a small niche for particular people, who will naturally enjoy the subjects that these jobs require. The students who have an interest in math-related subjects will also enjoy math, so they will naturally take the class. For example, an aspiring computer scientist will likely take linear algebra to help him understand machine learning, and a future physicist will want to take applied math. For all these reasons, students should only take four years of math if they plan on taking a job in the STEM field.
Because most students show no interest in the subject of math, schools should not require it for all four years in high school. This disinterest really hurts their learning in these classes. Students who play on their phones or zone out in the middle of class will probably learn nothing, revealing the uselessness of these classes. If these classes have no use, we have no reason to require them and waste millions of dollars in school resources to teach this subject to every student. The interested students who pay attention will sign up for the class anyway. In addition, students don’t like to have the subject forced on them, and we must consider their opinions, too. High school students have enough maturity to know if they think math will help them later in life. If they dislike the subject and see no value in taking it, and it contributes very little to them later on in their lives, we have no reason to teach it. In short, the students dislike doing something that they have no interest in, like math, and we want to avoid wasting resources on them.
Advocates for four years of math in high school claim that math enables students to find better jobs and more success. Most STEM jobs, because of their difficulty, earn more pay. However, these critics fail to realize the fact that few people can actually thrive in these STEM jobs. As they point out, these jobs involve much difficulty, and many people lack the capacity to perform these specific tasks. It takes a great amount of knowledge to understand many computer science topics, physics is notorious for its difficulty, and chemistry is as challenging as math itself. In short many people are unsuited for these jobs and should find other places where they excel to spend time on, so we should save their time and our money by removing math from their list of required subjects.
High schools should not require four years of math because people rarely need it for work or outside of work. The fact that most students are uninterested in this subject adds to this uselessness. This need to remove math requirements suggests that some other subjects or even rules and expectations need reform. Do we need to give students unnecessary stress in the form of grades? With the rise of video calls, should we even require attendance at schools? Maybe it’s time we reconsider our outdated assumptions about education so that students can learn better.