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Why Should I Study Mathematics in College?

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taking-math-in-collegeBy Dr. Tiffany DePriter
Mathematics Instructor, American Public University

Many people think mathematics is difficult to learn. It involves complex formulas and procedures and has little to no relevance to our daily lives. The truth is that mathematics goes well beyond complicated number crunching and serves as a foundation for many academic disciplines.

We all need mathematics skills

Have you ever considered purchasing a house, investing for retirement, or taking out a vacation loan? If so, then you’ve encountered mathematics. Have you made home repairs, like tiling a floor or planting a garden? If so, then you’ve used mathematics. While these examples highlight the practical use of mathematics, there is also underlying conceptual knowledge that extends beyond the mathematics classroom as well as the backyard garden.

Mathematics helps us to think critically and logically. It develops our problem solving skills, forcing us to think through a problem from beginning to end, methodically work through steps to solve the problem, and then check our work for accuracy. Being able to think and work in such a way is beneficial to any field.

Critical thinking skills are highly sought after by employers. Also, mathematician was recently ranked as one of the best career options. So whether you want to learn to be a better problem solver or move into a career that relies on having a sound mathematical framework, mathematics is a field that should be considered.

Learning math is like learning a language

Would you ever enroll in Spanish III if you haven’t taken Spanish I or II? Could you have a conversation in Arabic without first having studied the language? Similar to a foreign language, mathematics is a language unto itself. First we learn the numeration system, then basic computation notation, and move to more advanced concepts. Learning to “speak” math takes time and practice, just like learning to speak a foreign language.

In a college mathematics program, a student might start with algebra, geometry, or trigonometry; move through the calculus sequence; and then tackle higher level mathematics such as real analysis and differential equations. Each of these courses builds on the previous courses. Students cannot master advanced concepts if the basics are not first learned and mastered.

[see also: Will I Use Algebra in my Everyday Life?]

We know that once language is learned and developed, it becomes second nature to speak, write, and communicate. The same is true of mathematics. While at first it might seem difficult to understand the rules of mathematics, with practice they too become second nature and will be your new language.


About the Author:

Dr. Tiffany DePriter is an Associate Professor of Mathematics in the School of Science and Technology at American Public University. She has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, a master’s in distance education, and holds a Doctor of Education degree in Mathematics Education.  Dr. DePriter has been teaching mathematics online for the past five years with American Public University.  

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