Warning: this blog post contains strong language. Reader discretion is advised. Actually, it’s the posting in the Facebook group “Every time I walk into math class a little part of me dies” that contains the strong language. This group pulls over 12,000 young students (mostly high school age) who share a common interest – the fear, loathing, and ultimately hatred of math.


Being inept at math is almost a badge of honor for many today. In a social gathering, even an adult one, it won’t be long until someone (typically articulate and educated) blurts out “I’m a complete zero when it comes to math” with some pride. Funny though … you don’t hear many shouting “I can’t read a single word!” with the same enthusiasm.

Attracting young people into the sciences because there are lots of jobs seems to be a futile process. Kids, for the most part, seem not to be terribly interested in the practical reasons … I’m learning that the hard way from my teenage son. To him, Bill Gates is still a nerd … regardless of how much money he has. My son simply wants to work at a restaurant or a club so that he can make enough money to pay for his music habit. I did convince him that perhaps he should consider going to a good university to learn how to become a great waiter.

Issues such as implementing a model formulation technique that only uses through variables and not across variables; or ensuring graphics speed and diverse platform support through Java; or cleaning up the Maple function namespace, all seem to be trivial problems in the face of an angst-driven teenager concerned about life prospects. Twenty years at a software company, or three degrees in engineering, or the non-stop disassembly and reassembly of a barely functioning 1973 Plymouth Valiant, failed to prepare me for the task of counseling a teenager on career issues.

“If you study engineering, you too can drive a BMW.”
“There’s no law against attractive guys or girls going into math.”
“Where do you think the Xbox comes from?”
“You can still play in a band part time while you’re studying computer science.”
“Did you know that Brian May has a PhD in physics?”

Yes … I’ve tried everything and have made zero progress so far. Maybe you can wade into that Facebook group and report back your findings. Any help would be greatly appreciated LOL^2.

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