Why take calculus?

by Kristen Lauria

I often get asked by parents whether their child needs to take advanced math.  Maybe their kid is just not into math, or they have a learning disability, or they already know what they plan to do after high school and just don’t see the point.  I am here to suggest that you do push your child to take higher math beyond geometry and algebra 2.  It may be difficult, but the rewards are worth your time.

To explain my reasoning, I want you to think about sports.  When a student is a star football player, do they just practice football all the time?  When it’s football season, are all their practices on the field just running plays?

Of course not!  They spend time in the off-season practicing or playing other sports to rest their “football muscles” and keep other muscles in shape.  Or keep their cardio up.  During the regular season, they also probably spend part of the week working on skills like running for cardio or weight-lifting to increase strength and muscle mass.  Doing these other exercises doesn’t practice running plays, but it does directly impact their ability to do so.


Just like football players train using other skills than playing football, our minds need exercise of all kinds as well.  If your student struggles in math, then practicing those skills they’ve learned in earlier math and continuing their studies can really be beneficial.  The same is true if they have a learning disability.  This doesn’t mean they have to take a class within typical time constraints.  Maybe take two years to finish what is typically done in a year, but don’t quit math all together just because you have checked off the state’s requirements for math.

If your child knows what they want to do after graduating high school and those plans don’t require math beyond geometry or algebra 2 it may seem like a no-brainer to stop there.  However, keep in mind that plans can change!  My high school chemistry teacher still likes to tease me that I declared in 10th grade that I’d never do anything in my adult life that had to do with math or science.  Wise 15 year old me never saw the joy I would find when I studied physics the following year (neither did 16 year old me who griped about actually having to do homework to be able to understand the material).  In fact, I was 25 before I decided to go back to college and get a degree in physics and found my true passion, math, during the course of my undergraduate degree.

The reality is, plans change.  It’s easy to write off higher math, but wouldn’t it be better for your student to have seen the math before having to take it in college at a much faster pace and with a professor who probably won’t be as patient with your child as you can be?  Even if they don’t understand everything this time through, they will be much better prepared to learn the rest if they’ve seen the material before.  Even if they don’t end up going further in math as an adult, the problem solving skills and determination to make it through a difficult subject will help them be successful no matter where they end up!

Have you pushed your own kids to keep going in math?  Have you seen the results pay off?  Have you had other results?  Please let me know your thoughts below.


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