Do you want to travel to Mars?
Design houses or create computer software?
Do you want to discover a cure to cancer or protect rivers and oceans from pollution?
If you do, be sure to take lots of math in school.
Many challenging and rewarding careers - not just engineering - demand a strong background in math. Classes like algebra, geometry, and trigonometry may be difficult, but they will open the doors to many exciting opportunities in your future. Of course, you can catch up on your math when you get to college, but like a language it is much easier to really learn it when you are young, and you’ll have a hard time catching up in college without taking extra years if you don’t at least have the basics. Since you have to take most math class in a particular order, it's also important to start early so that you are prepared to take the right classes when you need them.
Besides the inherent beauty in mathematics there are lots of other reasons to take as much math as you can, even if you don’t want to be an engineer. For one, math can actually make you smarter! It’s like endurance training for your brain. Learning to think critically and focus on a problem is important for any career.
You may also want to take math so you can make and save more money. On average, people who understand math have higher paying careers. That may not always be the case, but you’ll certainly increase your odds by understanding as much as you can. And when all your friends are losing their last dime on the latest crazy scheme that doesn’t make mathematical sense, you might actually have the forethought to sit back and crunch the numbers before jumping in.
Having a solid background in math is very much like understanding a very useful and universal language. It is important to start early to be completely fluent, and you’ll be able to communicate difficult concepts with a few simple equations. People in many other countries know the importance of math and work very hard to master it from an early age. Considering the increasing globalization of the economy, you shouldn’t be surprised that you will be competing with many of those hard-working students for jobs by the time you get out of college.
And speaking of college, you may want to consider taking extra math just to help make sure you get into the right college. A compelling essay will go a long way on your college entrance applications, but so will a solid background in mathematics. And once you get to college, you won’t have to take loads of remedial math courses just to catch up.
And finally, you should take math because you’re cool! You won’t need to explain away why you don’t do numbers for the rest of your life. You’ll be able to help your kids with their math homework, and you will be the one people turn to when they need some creative problem-solving.
So now that you know all the great reasons to study math in high school, here are some math classes that you will want to take:
Algebra
Algebra is extremely useful for solving problems. Algebra uses basic arithmetic rules to describe and group things and to discover the value of something unknown (usually represented by a letter in an equation). Algebra is the foundation for many other math subjects.
Geometry
Geometry is the study of the properties of and relationships between points, lines, angles, and surfaces. Geometry uses logic and mathematical laws to describe the physical world and will give you several other important problem solving tools.
Trigonometry
In trigonometry, you study triangles and trigonometric functions like sine, cosine, and tangent. Trigonometry has real world applications dealing with everything from radio waves and electricity to telescopes and ship navigation.
Calculus
With calculus, you combine everything you've learned about math and take the next step. Calculus uses special symbols and logic to do difficult calculations, like determining the orbit of a space vehicle, or predicting the time it takes a car to stop on a wet road. Calculus is a very powerful tool for solving complex problems.
What about you?
So do you have a favorite math class? Can you think of other great reasons for taking math? Tell us in the comments below.