by Jon Sullivan - 2019-10-04<<<<< previous blog next blog >>>>>
Learning math is pointless in 2019. Or is it?
I promised my sister I'd help her son with 6th grade math if needed. So of course the questions are coming in, and now I have to relearn stuff I've not used in 40 years. This is slightly humiliating. Also, what happens when he gets to trig or calculus? No way in hell I remember how to do integrals.
The obvious question is - What the hell is this stuff even good for in 2019? Assuming he's not going to be a civil engineer, it's just not needed. I've used math every day of my life, but not the math I learned past the 4-5th grade. Being able to calculate the volume of a cone might be handy if...... ummmmm..... I have no idea. Puzzles in a newspaper? Oh, right, we no longer have newspapers. My high school math teacher mentioned math was good for counting change. Oh, right, we all pay with an app now.
So while it might be easy to explain to the child that math is just a way schools indoctrinate you into being sheep-like by tearing down your soul, I don't feel that way. 6th grade math is critical, and people should take it seriously.
I interview people for programming jobs a lot. One of the main reasons I don't hire someone is their lack of both the ability to analyze problems, and the will to even try. I ask people in interviews programming challenges involving 6th grade math and many of them just freak out. I honestly don't even care if they get a working block of code. I ask the question to see if they can logically think through problems they aren't familiar with. As they should, people applying for a programming job cruise the Internet for interview questions and make sure they have a practised answer all queued up. Tossing in simple math they assumed they'd never use is better than having them just copy stuff from a website.
It's the critical thinking skills I hope kids are learning. The ability to breakdown problems and work out a solution. If you can't work through a code loop just because I used the word "factorial", and then reminded you how factors work, why would I want you anywhere near my codebase?
The person I will hire will be the person who can show me they know how to analyze a problem and work towards an answer. But way too often what I get is people who run into something they didn't memorize right before the interview and then freak out.
So I hope my nephew understands the importance of hard questions involving worthless math skills. If you can work through these sorts of bullshit questions, you are immediately superior to someone who freaks out. And that has tremendous value in just about everything. If as an adult you can calmly and rationally work through a simple math problem in 2019 you will impress the hell out of people. And 6th grade math is where you start learning that skill.<<<<< previous blog next blog >>>>>