In a recent Gallup poll Americans were asked “Thinking about all the subjects you studied in school, which one, if any, has been the most valuable to you in your life?” The top three subjects were Math (34%), English/Literature/Reading (21%) and Science/Physics/Biology (12%). This is similar to the results from the August 2002 results where 34% of the respondents listed mathematics as the most valuable subject.
With the emphasis now in school curricular standards on critical thinking, innovative problem-solving and effective communication skills, these results should be no surprise. Many schools are emphasizing the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), education and attitudes towards these once-dreaded subjects are changing. Many now recognize the importance of mathematics and science in the preparation for post-secondary studies and career training.
While many Americans believe in the importance of the “three Rs” (reading, writing, and arithmetic) in public schools, the demands of curriculum should be fashioned to promote student focus on logic, reasoning skills, and the ability to report and justify their conclusions. As a mathematics educator, it is good to see mathematics listed as a top priority. With new frontiers in science, technology, and engineering opening up, it is imperative that mathematics and language arts go hand-in-hand as the classroom subjects that need the most emphasis. But overlooking creativity, innovative and logical thinking must also be included in the daily expectations of student inquiry.