News Herald – Juliann Talkington
The U.S. State Department offers intensive summer language institutes in what they advertise as the thirteen critical languages. Interestingly, mathematics is not one of them.
In the Information Age, one has to wonder if the policy makers need a reality check.
Mathematics is the only language shared by all humans regardless of culture, religion, or gender. No matter where you live, pi represents the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter and adding up the cost of a cart of food involves the same math process regardless of whether the total is expressed in dollars, pesos, or yuan.
However, very few people, if any, are literate in all the world’s tongues —English, Chinese, Spanish, etc.
Before the Information Revolution, countries were relatively isolated. Employers hired local people to fill jobs and data and information was stored in physical libraries. Many people were required to process, store and access this information. As a result, there were many jobs that did not require analytical skill.
Everything changed with the advent of the computer and the Internet. Information is now stored in computers and travels at the speed of light. We no longer need people to manually store or help us find information. Instead we need technically astute people who can use information to make our lives better and more enjoyable. Since information is electronic, stored as combinations of zeros and ones, an Information Age worker must have strong math skills.
Sadly, many schools are still educating students for 20th Century jobs – jobs that no longer exist. Kids are still placed into math and non-math tracks and many teachers do not have the background to use the language of math in their classrooms.
Travel around the world to Singapore – it only takes a second on the Internet. In that country, students are expected to learn to both English and the international language of math. Many of the K-12 graduates who choose social science careers have stronger math skills than our math track kids. To make matters worse, technology allows companies to hire talent anywhere in the world. No wonder unemployment in the U.S. is at an all time high.
For the U.S. to compete and our kids to have a reasonable standard of living, we must embrace the Information Age language – math. It is language of opportunity in the 21st Century!