“All I Really Need to Know” in math is From Elementary and Middle School

A spin off to Fulghum’s book (below) is that by high school, students have been presented with almost all of the math they need if they are not pursuing college.

High school math, aside from some exceptions, is largely designed to prepare students for college and subsequent careers.

If your student is entering high school and does not have a postsecondary goal of college (2 or 4 year) then you can turn the main focus of the math education to topics covered before high school.

Some of the topics in geometry and statistics are applicable to real life and most of those would have been covered in the Statistics or Geometry and Measurement domains from previous grades. There are topics unique to high school math that are prerequisites for some vocations, e.g., trigonometry for surveying. Some applications of the high school math address real life, but the focus is on the math and not the applications.

The image below shows a breakdown of a sample of topics for life skills math and for two vocations. Here is a link to a PDF of the document shown above. You can see the math topics. Here are the links to the pages for the plumbing topics and the welding topics.

Related to this value of college education for certain job sectors. The director of the Office of Higher Education in Connecticut, Tim Larson, stated that many companies have proprietary software, programs, or procedures that they will teach new hires. The take away from this is that much of the actionable knowledge needed would not be covered in college. Many of the skills they are looking for are not academic in nature. The Wall Street Journal published two articles that speak to the change in requirements for some jobs, in which a college degree is no longer a requirement (“Rethinking the Need for College Degrees“, “Is this the end of college as we know it?”)

A college education (or at least the degree) provides incredible opportunities, but it is not needed for many students.

2 Replies to ““All I Really Need to Know” in math is From Elementary and Middle School”

  1. You are right on target, and I agree with your perspective. It does leave me with a couple questions about what I would do if I were the education czar.

    1. Should we make school after 8th grade optional? After all you’ve learned all the academics you need to learn by 8th grade, not just all the maths.

    2. On the other hand High Schoolers seldom have a clear idea of what they are really going to do for a career. If you attend to your academics as if you were college bound it gives you options. Is having options worth the time spent on what may be purely academic pursuits? This is just a question of maths, all the poetry you need you learned by 8th grade too.

    The high school I work at has had the courage to offer non-college prep pathways to students. A year of algebra and a year of financial or career math fills graduation requirements. While this serves our students well it puts the school at risk on the annual standardized tests, which is why it’s an act of courage by our school board and administration.

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