Proven by many recent conversations, it seems to me that many people are feeling the same way right now, probably due to the obnoxious weather changes and the fact that we don't get a fall break (hint hint). Something that has come up during many of these talks is the frustration with certain classes that are required, mainly, as you may have guessed, mathematics courses. Most, although not all, of these conversations have been had with individuals who are not mathematics majors, which made these frustrations even more interesting to explore and has made me begin to think further about my own opinions on the subject. Overall the questions were posed: why are mathematics classes required for (fill in the blank) major? When will I ever need to use this in my field? Why can't I focus on classes that are specific to what I want to pursue?

Let's rewind back to middle school and high school days. In those years it was expected to hear these questions asked in a math class probably multiple times a day. But the answers given by teachers then were always in some regard to a future career, a 'life' reason, or a vague reason about connections to later math courses that essentially avoided the question all together. Now, in college, we're pursuing those careers, we're dealing with real life, and we're taking 'later' math courses, and people are just as confused as ever. Here are a few comments I've heard from some friends recently:

"I'm a dance major; why do I need to take

*any*math!?"

"Tell me why I would ever need to know more than simple math as a nurse! Shouldn't I be more focused on things that will directly apply?"

"I'm an

*elementary*math major. I'm never going to teach anything remotely close to this!"

I don't mean to pick on mathematics of course, this could be applied to any other subject as well. A friend of mine looking to be a nurse, who was studying for a biology exam recently stated, "I don't understand what good these classes are for me either. Until I get into classes more specific to the nursing program, all that's happening is studying like crazy for an exam and then forgetting everything I supposedly learned." For a future doctor or nurse, an individual is not going to look back during an emergency situation and attempt to use the knowledge gained from a 100 level math class they took. Nor will they even look back to try and remember the facts read from a textbook for a 200 level biology class. It's the hands-on, action based experiences that are going to make an impact.

In this same way, it seems a little over the top to me to have a student wishing to be a future middle school mathematics educator to take a class like Calculus 3 or Complex Variables. When describing a degree in education, it's always said that education is the degree and the content area is the emphasis. Shouldn't this mean that college classes should be focused more on teaching than on content? These difficult classes in college highly exceed any level of mathematics that an elementary or secondary education teacher would need to know, and introduction to actual teaching isn't really a focus until the final year. This means that while these students work to grasp somewhat insane concepts, the knowledge and memory of middle or high school concepts that will need to be taught, is decreasing, forcing college of education students to scramble up lost knowledge when thrust into the busy life of teacher assisting and student teaching.

Thinking about teaching mathematics with this in mind makes me wonder what might change if the way math was taught or the concepts required to pass for a given math class were edited to place an emphasis on careers. In high school very few people know what they want to pursue in college, and people usually don't start thinking about it in depth until their junior or senior years. However, what if high school became a place where mathematics courses could be a way to help these people explore potential careers? What if mathematics courses were only a requirement for two of the four years of high school, and the empty block the following two years was able to be filled with classes more specific to what each student might want to pursue? What if the general education requirements in college weren't given as much emphasis and students were able to begin exploring their future career more quickly?

I think students in all grades would succeed and achieve more if their mathematics courses were implemented based on interests rather than complexity and grade level. All students learn and grasp concepts at different levels, so why not allow all students to determine what kind of mathematics they enjoy and use that to further their education?

Again, I don't want to lay all the blame on mathematics, but math is the subject that more often than not is recognized as the one that students dislike. There may not necessarily be a successful way to make changes as I mentioned above, but as a potential future teacher, and for anyone interested in students' learning, it's definitely something to think about.