claremarieegan Mar/ 6/ 2019 | 0

Hello! My name is Clare, and welcome to my blog – Math Impacts!

This platform is all about math – math concepts, math education, math ethics, and all the ways that math impacts our lives. 

My mission: to uncover the connections between mathematics and you.

Before I get started, a little bit about me. I recently graduated from UC Berkeley, where I majored in math and minored in EECS (electrical engineering / computer science). During my final semester, I wrote a blog for The Daily Californian, our student newspaper, where I discussed many of the highs, lows, and in-betweens that myself and other STEM students at Berkeley faced each day. Now that I’m in the real world working as an engineer, I want to continue writing and focus specifically on math and math education.

This blog is for anyone and everyone curious about math. Do you want to learn more about the machine learning and big data craze that is taking the world by storm? Would you like to investigate some of the algorithms working behind the scenes on your Facebook newsfeed? Or maybe you’re interested in more abstract discussions like why does the United States continue to lag in math education or where do ethics come into play when developing technology? These are the kinds of topics I will be exploring every week!

Before I get started, I want to make a disclaimer. I am NOT a math expert. I did major in math, and I work as a systems engineer, but I don’t have advanced degrees, I am not an aspiring math PhD candidate, and I do not know everything about the topics I will be discussing. 

However, I don’t think mathematics should be an experts-only forum. In fact, one of my goals with this blog is to help make mathematics more accessible – even to those of you who can’t remember the last time you took a math course! This blog is not a homework helping blog nor is it a blog full of complicated theorems and advanced terminology. This is an accessible, no experience required math blog focused on intuitively and creatively explaining the ways math works in your lives. This blog is also focused on all topics related to math education and math literacy.

Today, I want to briefly discuss the state of math today.

It seems to me that as children and teens, we are exposed to a very narrow view of math, which in turn, makes math seem incredibly boring. Think back to your high school algebra class. How many times did you learn a concept’s impact on modern society? Probably, not many. 

Instead, the same topics like point-slope form were repeated over and over again, often with little to no real-world examples. By the time college comes around, many people never take another math course. In fact, many of us actively run from math every time we see it. 

Be honest, how many times have the phrases “I’m not a math person” or “I’m not good with numbers” or “Math is too hard” come out of your mouth? Probably too many.

So how do we make math more interesting, more accessible, more exciting? That is the million dollar question, and while I can’t give you the answer today, I do want to take a look at how we are doing as a society when it comes to making progress in math education. 

According to US News, we are not doing so well. In 2017, the United States was ranked 40th in the world in math literacy. 40th. We have not evolved enough in how we approach teaching mathematics to our young people and it shows. 

In fact, a 2017 report from ACT.org states:

“It’s difficult to admit, but the United States is a STEM-deficient nation.”

Those are harsh words, especially in the increasingly technology-driven world that we live in. 

STEM jobs in the US are projected to grow by about 8.9% between 2014 and 2024. Currently, the average hourly wage for a STEM job is almost $40, compared to about $20 for a non-STEM job

And yet, only 21% of students who took the ACT in 2017 met the ACT’s STEM benchmark for college preparedness

These statistics (and there are many, many more), leave me – and hopefully you – with a ton of questions. And confusion. And frustration. With all of the math and STEM job growth, why are we still so behind? Why are we still running away from math and STEM?

I think a lot about this and also about more abstract questions these statistics don’t address. For example, how do most people perceive mathematics? Do we all understand the basics behind the many algorithms that impact our lives? Do we know how to interpret the many numbers and statistics that are thrown at us every day in the news? 

And most importantly, are we able to make informed decisions when numbers, algorithms, and technology are involved (which is basically the definition of math literacy)? Unfortunately, the numbers say no, not all of us can.

The state of math today is decidely NOT strong. But, it’s not hopeless. The technology boom is slowly forcing our society to come to terms with the importance of STEM education. But STEM education is not only crucial for the future programmers of the world or for teenagers trying to get into college, it’s crucial for everyone. Mathematics specifically, forms the foundation for all things STEM, and everyone can benefit from improving their relationship with math. 

Math is not just somethin we can learn in a couple sittings or through an ACT prep book. Every day, I read about a new piece of technology or come across a new concept at work and I realize that there is an infinite amount of knowledge to be learned (more on infinity in a future post)! But hey, one step at a time! Hopefully these posts will help spark interest in mathematics and motivate you to get friendlier with math.

Hope you all enjoyed reading, and stay tuned for more posts to come. Please subscribe to get updates on my future posts and email me at mathimpacts@gmail.com with questions / comments / topics of interest! 

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