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Do you need Math?

Patricia Grant-Kitson

Patricia Grant-Kitson
Career Writer

Why is a pass in CXC, CAPE or A’Level mathematics necessary for employment and/or advanced studies? Do I really need to use mathematics in entry-level positions?

You may be asking these questions if you are among the many young Jamaicans without this subject at the CXC level or higher. Statistical reports provided by the Ministry of Education indicate that the failure rate for CXC/CSEC mathematics is higher than that of the other subjects.

For example, in 2006/2007, 29.6 percent of the students who sat the mathematics exams received Grades I to III. In 2007/2008 this volume increased to 37.2 percent, with only 14.8 percent gaining a Grade I or II. There was a marked improvement for the sitting of the CAPE examinations in Pure and Applied Mathematics, but the G.C.E. A’level mathematics examinations in 2007/2008 showed a similar pattern - of the 95 persons sitting the exam, only 17 persons achieved Grades A to E, a mere 17.9 percent.

Most persons are officially introduced to maths for the first time in school as arithmetic at the primary level when we are learn numbers and how to count, and then how to add, subtract, multiply and divide whole numbers, fractions, decimals, and percentages.

As we prepare for, advance to, and progress through the secondary level we encounter more complicated versions of mathematics, such as algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, statistics, set theory, etc. Sadly, for various reasons, many can relate to mathematics only in the abstract sense, failing to see its relevance to daily living and working, and many come to dislike it and/or fear it, creating mental blocks that inhibit our ability to grasp the concepts and methodology required to master the subject.

Understanding the useful of mathematics to our career success is more obvious when mathematics is seen, not as an abstract problem to be solved, but, as the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory defines it - “a study of patterns and relationships; a science and a way of thinking; an art, characterized by order and internal consistency; a language, using carefully defined terms and symbols; and a tool.”

This identifies the versatility of mathematics that places it within practically every profession. As the language of science, it allows scientists (experimental, engineering, mathematical, computational, social, political, etc.) to design, analyse, communicate and utilize the results of experiments and research….and mankind has benefitted. Scientists have made many worthwhile inventions (such as automobiles, planes, and fibre-optic networks) and have provided information on, and solutions to, many critical problems such as the rate of global warming, weather prediction, and the spread and control of communicable illnesses and diseases, such as the swine flu.

The versatility extends to other fields as maths is also the tool and upholding arm for business, the arts, information technology, etc. working behind the scenes to provide support and consistency. For the business world, it provides the data and analysis that aids budgeting, planning, decision-making, problem solving, etc. For the artist, it provides the sense of depth and dimensions. For music, it defines the beats and maintains the rhythm. For the fashion designer, it is needed to create patterns and designs. Indeed, we cannot escape maths…there’s a bit of it in everything.

It is clear then that we need maths if we want successful careers in any field. It is not the ability to do maths itself that’s relevant at the entry level, but the fact that it is an indication of our ability to think logically, reason, and conduct critical thinking. We must therefore approach the subject with discipline and determination - study it in groups and on our own, seek help from others, use internet resources…do whatever it takes to master this subject. There are numerous rewards for success.

* Patricia Grant-Kitson is a human resource management & training consultant. Email
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