Question of the Day: High School Math
What is the perimeter of a rectangle with a base of and a height of ?
Although the most important aspect of any high school course—indeed, any academic undertaking—should be excellence in that class and a firm grasp of the subject material being studied, it is also quite instructive to note the benefits that accrue to excellent work in a given field of study. Of course, doing well in any class provides a positive line item for one’s resume and sure ballast for an impressive GPA. However, each class has its own benefits in varied ways. Excellence in writing can provide many opportunities for self-expression in almost all fields in later years. A firm grasp of the history of art and music can help impress many with one’s cultural acumen as well as provide important sources for understanding the mindsets of various historical periods. In mathematics, the benefits of excellence are at least threefold. Above all else, mathematical skills are highly transferrable to other disciplines of study, all of which use the abilities and concepts learned in math courses. Secondly, studies in mathematics also provide important groundwork for numerous standardized tests. Finally, mathematics has the added benefit of helping to develop the general logical skills of those who master its abstract patterns of reasoning.
Clearly, we live in a world that acknowledges mathematics to a very high degree. It holds a place of great importance among the various subjects studied and numerous skills gained by students in high school curricula. Mathematical knowledge is presupposed not merely for the erudite ponderings of mathematics professors; it is critical throughout the physical and biological sciences and also is central for studies in computer science and software engineering. Even the social sciences, such as sociology and psychology, require able skills in statistical analysis. In all of these subjects, mathematical aptitude provides the foundation for success.
Throughout one’s studies—whether in high school or even if choosing to pursue graduate school—there are certain standard hurdles that must be cleared in order to apply to new institutions. For high school students, the SAT or the ACT is necessary on many college applications. For graduate students in many fields, the GRE is an important gateway examination; those seeking to apply to management programs may need to face the GMAT for business school admissions. These four tests challenge test-takers with a number of concepts taken from the topics covered in high school mathematics. Able skills in these secondary school courses can be well reflected on examination day.
Finally, mathematics has the general advantage of helping students develop abstract reasoning skills. This is particularly true in high school math, given the shift to focusing on the abstract reasoning appropriate to algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. All of these types of courses demand that students learn to reason through numerous steps to achieve complex goals. While most such reasoning is mathematical in nature, it helps students to hone their basic abilities in writing, which requires logical clarity. Such preparation can provide groundwork for students who will later prepare to take the LSAT, which heavily features logical reasoning. Though not equivalent, mathematical reasoning can greatly help to develop such general reasoning skills, bearing many fruits—both in examinations but also in general learning and critical thinking abilities.