Mathematics for Everyone: Why It Matters

Cole Brady Kisten emphasizes the significance of mathematical literacy in everyday life, advocating for its promotion through various strategies to ensure equal opportunities for all individuals in our data-driven world.

Illustration by Tristan Barnard

Mathematics is an essential subject that is crucial for our daily lives. From counting and measuring to making decisions based on data and understanding the world around us, mathematics plays a crucial role in various aspects of our lives. Therefore, it is crucial to celebrate the official International Day of Mathematics with this year’s theme, “Mathematics for Everyone.” In this article, we will discuss why mathematics is essential, how it can benefit everyone, and why we need to promote mathematical literacy.

Mathematics is a universal language that everyone can understand regardless of their cultural, linguistic, or geographic background. It is the foundation of science, technology, engineering, and other fields, providing a framework for understanding and solving complex problems. Mathematics is necessary for everyday life; we use it for budgeting, saving money, cooking, and measuring ingredients. Understanding mathematical concepts like fractions, decimals, and percentages is essential for financial planning and budgeting. For example, if you want to save a certain amount of money each month, you need to know how to calculate percentages to determine how much you need to save. Similarly, when cooking, you need to measure ingredients accurately to ensure that your dish turns out well. Mathematics is also important for career development; it is essential for many careers, including science, technology, engineering, and finance. In these fields, mathematical concepts like algebra, calculus, and statistics are necessary for problem-solving, data analysis, and research. For example, engineers use mathematics to design and develop products, while data scientists use mathematics to analyze and interpret data. Mathematics helps us make informed decisions in today’s world, where we are inundated with data. Mathematical literacy is crucial for understanding and interpreting data, whether it’s for personal or professional purposes. By learning how to read and interpret graphs, charts, and tables, we can make better decisions based on data.

Illustration by Liani Malherbe

Mathematics is essential for scientific and technological advancement. It is the foundation of science and technology, providing a framework for understanding and solving complex problems. For example, mathematics is essential for the development of computer science and artificial intelligence. Without mathematics, we wouldn’t have the technology that we have today. Despite the importance of mathematics, many people struggle with the subject, leading to a significant achievement gap in mathematics education. Many students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, struggle to understand mathematical concepts and perform poorly on standardized tests. Therefore, promoting mathematical literacy is essential to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to succeed. Here are some ways in which we can promote mathematical literacy:

Emphasize the relevance of mathematics:

Many students struggle with mathematics because they do not see its relevance to their daily lives or future careers. By emphasizing the practical applications of mathematics and its relevance to various fields, we can motivate students to learn and excel in the subject.

Provide resources and support for struggling students: Many students struggle with mathematics and need additional resources and support to succeed. By providing tutoring, extra practice materials, and other resources, we can help struggling students improve their mathematical skills.

Encourage student-centered learning: Traditional mathematics education often relies on rote memorization and repetition, which can be ineffective for many students. By encouraging student-centered learning, where students are actively engaged in the learning process, we can help them develop a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts.

Integrate technology in mathematics education:

Technology can be a powerful tool for promoting mathematical literacy. By integrating technology into mathematics education, we can provide students with interactive and engaging learning experiences. For example, online resources and interactive software can help students visualize and explore mathematical concepts, making them more accessible and engaging.

Promote diversity and inclusivity in mathematics education:

Mathematics education must be accessible to all students, regardless of their background or identity. To promote diversity and inclusivity in mathematics education, we must provide resources and support to students from underrepresented groups and actively work to reduce bias and stereotypes in our teaching practices.

Train and support mathematics educators:

Mathematics educators play a critical role in promoting mathematical literacy and need the training and support to effectively teach mathematics to diverse student populations. By providing professional development opportunities and resources for mathematics educators, we can ensure that they are equipped with the skills and knowledge to promote mathematical literacy among their students.

In conclusion, promoting mathematical literacy is essential for ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to succeed in our increasingly data-driven world. By emphasizing the relevance of mathematics, providing resources and support for struggling students, encouraging student-centered learning, integrating technology, promoting diversity and inclusivity, and training and supporting mathematics educators, we can work towards a future where mathematical literacy is a fundamental skill for all.

Cole Brady Kisten

Student: Stellenbosch University


National Mathematics Advisory Panel. (2008). Foundations for Success: The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. U.S. Department of Education.

Presmeg, N. (2006). Mathematics education and technology–Rethinking the terrain. The Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 25(4), 301-317.

Tate, W. F. (1997). Equity in mathematics education: Influences of feminism and culture. Theory into Practice, 36(3), 142-150.

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