A Case for High School Math

Last updated on 9th June 2024

I've come around to the idea that high school math is a gift.

Not because of why high schools teach it. It's easy to algorithmically generate and test for; which can make it seem like a good use of time. It's easy to measure. It's nicer to tell parents; "after x years, your kid has improved by y".

That's not why I think it's a gift, though.

It's a gift because it forces kids to entertain the idea that algorithmic evaluation and discovery can be fun. It makes mathematicians and physicists and astronomers. There are other ways to make those kinds of people, but forcing a kid to learn that they can figure out a problem from first principles and logical flow is cool.

Now, the lengths to which high schools force kids to engage in math, despite already having made their minds up about it, is a different story. This is where things like homeschooling can be better -- if they are able to step down the mount of forced math. Nobody needs 3D geometry unless they love it and want to study further or make it one of their careers. Higher-grade high school math teachers will still teach 3D geometry, and parents will force their kids into higher-grade high school math. It's a mess.

The best thing parents can do, in public schooling, is to listen to their kids and adjust subject choices and expectations to match. The best thing parents can do, in home schooling, is introduce as many subjects as possible; but adjust the depth and duration to suite blooming interest. Both require involved parents.