Ok so me, like everyone, complains in maths class that i will never need maths later in life. i know that this isant true, but what careers actually involve a lot of maths? im 15, and next year i will be taking NcEA(my big exams) and even though i dont know what i want be be when im older, i dont think i could do science, because the easiestt sums confuse me. do i need to be good at maths for everything? and, thinking ahead, should i take basic maths, or drop that and take statistics or something? sorry if im just rambling on, im on my phone:-)

I’ve taken the liberty of writing War and Peace on this subject for you.

I was horrible at math in school. I’m still not good at a great many simple things in it.

But that means I need to point out something important when talking about the math you learn in school.

It is not Real Math (tm). It’s school math. School math bears no resemblance to doing mathematical tasks in any industry. What school math is supposed to do is drill into people’s heads how to do very basic manipulations of equations and arithmetic, but it does this poorly and leaves a ton of people behind for no good reason.

In school, you do rows and rows of equations, practicing the same skills over and over whether or not you understand or have any interest in what’s going on.

You can be great at School Math and suck horribly at Real Math, and vice versa. I see it often. People who get A’s in their math classes have to come to me - someone who scraped by (and still scrapes by in many cases) with D’s to get real work done.

Math isn’t necessary to lead a successful life. Success without math is all around us. Musicians, writers, doctors, managers. There are cases of millionaire small business owners who can’t read. Forget math, they aren’t able to read the words on this page - and they still do fine.

So the question really isn’t “Do I need math,” because the answer is a very honest “You don’t.”

Almost every single field you could enter has a range of mathematical requirement, from physics to literature. Some require more math ability than others. Physicists and mathematicians obviously need lots, as do most types of engineers. But even in writing, some of the greatest science fiction ever written have authors who drew on their understanding of math to write their stories. Isaac Asimov is an excellent example - his collection of writings I, Robot got turned into a movie.

Any knowledge will give you new opportunities. But math, unfortunately for many in the arts, is the best example of this.

If you have a good understanding of math, you have options in EVERY field that you would not be able to pursue otherwise. This doesn’t matter to everyone; nor should it. I’m not passionate about horseback riding, and that closes off some career options I could take.

Two Nobel prize winning physicists make a great example: Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. Einstein was an amazing presenter and public speaker; Bohr was completely inept. Einstein’s public presentations grew in size every night, but Bohr scarcely had an audience by his second.

Two men at the apex of their field - theoretical physics.

One is now extremely well known to the public, and the other is unknown.

The difference between them is what they knew outside their area of expertise. So it goes with math. If something comes up at work where math is the way to deal with it, the person who can recognize it and deal with the problem is going to get the credit. And when the time for career advancement comes, they have more options open to them; they are more well known, and they have tackled a bigger range of problems.

Fortunately, there’s only a very, very tiny area where math is the job: mathematicians, physicists, and a few elite engineers. Everything else is a shade of gray. 95% of the math done in industry is done for some non-math reason, and is rarely acknowledged as “doing math.”

Some examples:

3d graphics and CGI - Renderers, shaders, etc
Scripting programs like Photoshop and Illustrator
Marketers and salespeople doing cost analysis
Biologists doing statistical analysis
Linguists analyzing historical text

I have examples in my own life where math has given me the advantage. It has led to easier jobs and more recognition. I’ll start with some NON-math things that I do just to illustrate my point.

I have been the technical writer and editor for many things. I have no formal training in it, but by reading books on the subject and practicing I’ve had the chance to write weird things at work. Managers come to me for emotionally and business sensitive emails, interview questions for potential employees, and documentation for complex processes for ISO or machinery manuals.

Graphic design has also been something I’ve been interested in. I get a lot of resumes from people to fix, and all the documents I produce look a lot better than most company documents. It makes me a go-to guy for this as well; I’ll get finished copy to edit and lay out.

On to the math.

In the machine shop, I was given the opportunity to be the manufacturing engineer as well as a machinist, on the basis of my newfound math ability. I have training in mechanical drawing, and could do calculations and produce production drawings for the rest of the manufacturing department.

When someone in the machine shop needed to calculate particularly difficult coordinates or dimensions, they asked me.

I had a lot of visibility in management as a result of this. When layoffs came I was informed early that my job was secure, and would be around unless the company went under entirely. The layoffs cut 2/3rds of the staff at the 100-person company. I would have been gone if hadn’t overcome my difficulty with math.

In my current position, which is information technology, I wind up being an analyst for many things. Folks who communicate with the public often need tables, charts, and numerical things to get grant money and persuade politicians. If they can’t do it, I get a phone call for guidance.

I just got a very nice raise and my hourly rate is now neatly above many of the other full time employees who call me. I’m a part time college student; I make WAY more than my classmates.

Is my job math? Not by a long shot. But I make more money, and I get to do more interesting things because of it.

So my advice to you?

If you can figure out math, if you can make it work and surmount the massive difficulty - do it.

You’ll likely make more money and have to do less work.

But at the same time, don’t let math or school hold you back. Don’t let the fact you have difficulty with this one piece of knowledge stop you from being successful in whatever it is you do.

There are mathematicians making $30k a year. There are authors making millions.

Nothing is for sure, and there are no silver bullets.

4/27/12
Hi Aminididi,
You'll need to go as far with math as you can. When I got to Elementary Algebra (as a developmental course), I couldn't pass it. But I've been glad for as much math as I was able to learn. Have you been tested? Once you get diagnosed, you might be able to get some advice from the Disability Services at your school. - jus'