It is important to get an early grasp on math and retain it throughout one’s lifetime. A student planning to go to college who avoids or does poorly in math in high school will find himself severely limited in choices of majors. I found myself in such a predicament. I like to look back and blame a lot of my current problems on a particular high school trigonometry teacher, but the truth is that I let things slip long before I took and bombed out in her class. If only I knew then what I know now.
Try looking through a college course manual as an incoming freshman. I can still remember thinking, over and over again, “You have to take calculus to earn a degree in THAT?” A student who struggles in any number of high school classes does so because of a lack of interest. Math can be lumped into this category. That’s true enough, but it’s one of the few subjects that stands alone as a skill. It has to be mastered from the beginning. A student can fail history as a junior and get an “A” in it as a senior. It happens all the time. Perhaps a certain teacher instills interest in the subject. Do poorly in math one year, and moving on while missing out on different sets of skills will be almost impossible.
I didn’t have a foreign language in high school, but I earned three A’s and a B+ in two years of college French. Everybody said that a person without a language in secondary school would never pass it in college. Wrong! I even improved my English grammar skills while taking a foreign language. Math was different. As an adult, I never did catch up with the students who excelled in math throughout school. I passed enough math in college to earn a degree, and that miracle C- in stats is still among my greatest life accomplishments. Indeed, I can trace two liberal arts degrees and a blue collar job back to a hatred of math as a teenager.
Today, the job market is more competitive than ever, and it’s only getting tougher. A student with poor math skills is in a deeper hole than at any time in our history. I really think it’s important to show a college manual to high school freshmen and sophomores. They won’t believe what they will NEVER have a chance to become without good math skills.