In defense of math

In her Opinion piece of April 24, Penny Scott suggests that “math-free degrees make sense” because many of the careers for which Lane students are preparing “don’t require people with math skills”.

Perhaps her argument would be more convincing if she would have provided even one example of a career that doesn’t require a working knowledge of math. But maybe she didn’t because she wasn’t able to think of any. Even journalists need to be data-savvy in order to analyze heaps of statistics so they can accurately and factually report the news.

What about Lane students who aren’t planning to become engineers or scientists? Let’s not shortchange their career plans and preparation. Let’s not put a Lane grad in a position as a store clerk who gets embarrassed because he or she is unable to calculate a sales discount for a customer. Let’s not put a Lane grad in a position as a medical technician who cannot calculate correct dosages for patients. Let’s not put a Lane grad in a position as a quality control specialist who doesn’t understand simple statistical concepts.

Let’s not turn Lane grads out into the world without the ability to calculate a tip, choose a cell phone plan, use a recipe, build a deck or invest for retirement. Math is more than adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing on a calculator. It’s a language in itself, a mental discipline, a preparation for a lifetime of confronting problems, analyzing them and solving them.

To eliminate math from our degree requirements and let “prospective employers decide if math is important” would be doing our students an irresponsible injustice. Employers are looking for people who are skilled in critical thinking and complex problem solving.

And that is what math is all about.