
Science Written for Canadian Community News by Mike Sterling To Comment on this article Click Here 

Our last survey showed that the responders were skeptical about how we can 'nudge' the mathematics test scores up for our young people. Please read the survey results. Recently, it dawned on me to ask the question: Who Needs Mathematics? It seems like a simple question, but I've never asked it of myself. Of course engineers and chartered accountants need mathematics. Scientists love mathematics. Does the average person use much math in their day to day lives? Probably not much. Here is a surprising fact that I've gathered by work experience. The skilled trades use a lot of math. Builders use trigonometry. Tool makers uses some complex mathematics to make our life easier. So, it is folly to let students slide by that short hour when they are introduced to mathematics. Five hours a week compared to 30 on their phone? 
I side with many who advise 'going back to basics'. It's easy enough to introduce some fun ideas and mathematical puzzles to students. If you have a young athlete, you teach basics and conditioning. So too with young minds. The basic tools of arithmetic and geometry have to be recalled instantly by skilled trade people. I recall a few years ago there was much effort put into teaching students to estimate rather than compute. Good students can estimate easily, if they have the basics and some speed of computation. You can teach estimating in a few days to students who have the basics. If they don't have the basics, you can't teach estimating. If a young person does not have mathematical basics, door after door is shut with a slam.
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