Every parent gets this question at some point. Many felt the same way when they were in high school, so it’s a difficult question to answer. Some parents will try to list all the cool or lucrative careers that require math. This can help, but it doesn’t change their teen’s opinion of the importance of math. They’ll just resign themselves to having to take it, and won’t see the true value in it. Students with a poor attitude about the value of math generally struggle in math.
I have my own answer to this question. I’ve seen what happens when I work with students and watch them go from hating math to enjoying math, or from saying “I have no idea how to do this problem” to “Wait…don’t tell me. I got this one.” It’s not that they’ve suddenly changed the way they feel about math, it’s that they’ve changed the way they feel about themselves. They begin to see themselves as competent problem solvers! This shift in self image will affect the rest of their lives. Being good at math brings a confidence that not only spills over into their other subjects, but into what they believe they can achieve intellectually in the future.
The astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson puts it beautifully in this short video – he even extrapolates his argument to the liberal arts: