Recently I went to BayanihanPost.com to get a “feel” of what kind of website is inviting me to join its bloggers’ group. What grabs my attention was Renita Angus’ post, advocating the importance of mathematics as a tool and as a subject not to be dreaded by students. As a math teacher, her frustration towards students’ fear of numbers is understandable. And as an engineer myself, I can clearly see her point of view.
I came from a family of engineers and accountant. Numbers don’t intimidate me and to borrow Senator Santiago’s phrase “We eat numbers for breakfast”. My knowledge of mathematics is adequate enough to meet head on mathematical problems I encounter in my line of work. But do we really have to prioritize math from the rest of other subjects?
Some people are gifted with minds attuned to numbers. They can do double integration easy, like eating a piece of cake. These are the ones who eventually choose professions related to science. They become scientists, engineers and architects. Others possess sophisticated ears and eyes that they can see and hear beauty from thin air, capture and reproduce it for others to enjoy and appreciate. These are visual artists and musicians, people who may appreciate mathematics only through sine waves and fractal images. Still there are those who possess photographic memories or organizational skill but can barely grasp abstract concepts of numbers, yet still succeed in becoming good lawyers or managers. A nurse may have to compute exact dosage of medication or a baker may need to know the number of cups of sugar in a recipe. But they don’t have to hurdle the whole 9 yards, from Algebra to Calculus, to achieve this. A simple arithmetic will suffice.
I agree we can’t live without mathematics. Like Neo’s “Matrix”, it’s around us. Its part of our daily lives, so familiar that we take it for granted. It’s the basic foundation of our infrastructure and the backbone of inventions which helps eases domestic living. But we are also living in an age where gigabits of information are bombarded to us everyday. Science is progressing and technology is advancing at an overwhelming rate that it can’t be contained in one repository. It has to be divided into fields, branching out into sub-fields called specialization.
Not all of us could be engineers, lawyers or doctors. We are not born equal. Some are better than others, may it be in material form, talent, skill or physical structure. If we are to assume each man is capable of acquiring all of these, then politicians don’t need speech writers to mesmerize his constituents. Businessmen don’t need accountants to balance their books. Art, music and literature won’t be appreciated, philosophy would be meaningless and humanity will cease to exist. All that is left is a cold, calculating brain, devoid of emotion, dependent on logic.
That’s why holistic method of education has its appeal. It identifies, develop and encourage students’ inclination and strong point. I believed students will have a better chance in the real world and live productive lives if they love their chosen field and happy with their work. Wouldn’t it be better if we teach the majority what is only necessary and leave challenging subjects to those who has the patience and gift of understanding complicated ideas? That way they will have more time to discover and study things that interest them, rather than master a concept which only a fraction can be practically applied in their daily life.