What Should Students Study to Prepare for the Future: Math Edition
Last week, I shared a report by Xconomy which asked innovators, scientists, and other thinkers what students should study now to prepare for ten years from now. Topping the list were programming and mathematics, in anticipation of advanced technology and computers in just about every field; science, engineering, and biology in particular, to prepare for careers in healthcare, sure to be important with an aging population; and other cultures and languages, especially Chinese, to prepare for an increasingly globalized world.
Other panelists had less tangible advice, including “learn how to learn” and learn how to focus, while several encouraged students to pursue their own entrepreneurial endeavors rather than one course of study. One Xconomist answered the question by arguing young people need to be “students of life.” Rather than committing to an industry or technology, students should ask themselves questions like:
“What do I want in my life? Who do I want to help? In what ways? Who needs my help? What positive changes can I contribute to? How can I learn, and continue to learn, and advance my pace of learning? What activities truly engage my passions, and my abilities? What goals can I set for myself which will drive me to excel, and to maximize my potential? … and many others”
When you consider that the average person will probably change careers at least a few times (7 times is a figure often thrown around, thought that may or may not be accurate) it’s probably wise not to tie oneself to a career choice too early on.
Still, there was a consensus among the panelists that at the very least, a solid foundation of math, programming, and science will be vital for a great many jobs in the future.
“More than anything, they should be studying math, including statistics and probability, and programming. No matter what the subject, we will have huge amounts of data about it, and will need these tools to get meaning from the data.”
“My pat answer is mathematics (the universal language)...”
“Students should be getting a solid enough grounding in mathematics, probabilistic thinking, physics, chemistry, biology, and engineering that they understand these ways of thinking and the values of these fields.”
Unfortunately, as important as science and math are, many students lose interest in these fields right around middle school and don’t recognize the importance of studying STEM-related fields. It’s been suggested that this is related to the way these subjects are often taught, as dry, boring concepts that don’t seem to be connected to real life.
There are also a great many free, interactive resources, games and real-world applications to be found online that help to engage and deepen students’ understanding of math concepts. Many of these resources could also be helpful for parents and Learning Coaches who struggle with math themselves and find it difficult to help their students, especially in the higher grades.
Eleven Online Resources for Engaging Students in Math
- Yummy Math is a free site that features relevant and timely real-world math activities – a recent post, for instance, featured NFL and Super Bowl related math problems. It could be a fun resource for students who have a hard time seeing the real-world value in learning math!
- Factor Samurai a free iPhone and iPad app for practicing times tables and prime factorization – one reviewer compared it to the addictive game Fruit Ninja, but with math!
- Sums Online offers several free math games for younger students, as well as app versions for mobile users.
- Study Jams is a Scholastic website with animated songs and videos explaining elementary level math and science concepts. Karaoke mode encourages kids to sing along!
- Along the same lines, Rhyme ‘n Learn explains higher level math and science concepts through catchy raps and Kahn Academy-style sketches. Check out Don’t Let Pi Make You Cry
- The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives is a project of Utah State University offering visual interactive online interactive tools and tutorials for math students in grades K-12.
- Brightstorm offers free homework help videos for math and science.
- Do I really need to tell you about Khan Academy? Probably not, but I’ll mention it anyway.
- Calkoo features a ton of free online calculators for different purposes.
- Circus Physics is a series of videos from PBS featuring circus tricks accompanied by lessons explaining the physics concepts behind them. This might be a cool resource for students who need to see concepts in order to “get it.”
Have you tried any of these resources? Do you use any other resources or games to help your student understand math concepts? Share with us in the comment.
- K12 Mobile Apps: Check Out K¹²'s Mobile Apps for iPhone and Android
- Transforming the Way We Learn - Mobile Learning
- thinktanK12 blog: Math