Skip to main content
Search IntMath

Is math useful? - Poll results

By Murray Bourne, 25 Oct 2007

Recently I ran a poll on Interactive Mathematics and asked users:

The math you are studying now - how useful is it for your future job?

The response from 1000 voters was quite encouraging:

Very useful: 51%
Not useful: 24%
Somewhat useful: 14%
Don't know yet: 11%

Most users of the site are currently studying mathematics at school or college level.

The result is encouraging to me because for years I needed to respond to this kind of question from my students:

What are we doing this stuff for? We're never gonna use it!

And then adults would love to say things like:

You teach math? But it's so useless! I have never used any of that stuff since school.

And even in a recent squareCircleZ post, It's fun to hate math, math educators like Underwood Dudley are throwing up their hands saying:

... algebra and subjects beyond it are, for almost everyone, not practical, nor are there any applications that anyone needs

I was starting to get the impression that the vast majority of students (and people generally) believed that mathematics was just an exercise in passing exams. And that concerns me because I have really enjoyed finding out what all that stuff was for when I started to teach more applied engineering mathematics. A large portion of my working life has been trying to convince students (and adults) about the utility of math.

In this (very unscientific) poll at least, the majority of readers (65%) believe the math they are studying has relevance for their careers.

Considering the 11% of users who responded with "I don't know yet", at least they have not been turned off by the strong societal pressures against math and are keeping an open mind.

You can see the results of previous IntMath polls. [The current poll asks about the use of math software. You can vote on any page on Interactive Mathematics.]

See the 9 Comments below.

Leave a comment

Comment Preview

HTML: You can use simple tags like <b>, <a href="...">, etc.

To enter math, you can can either:

  1. Use simple calculator-like input in the following format (surround your math in backticks, or qq on tablet or phone):
    `a^2 = sqrt(b^2 + c^2)`
    (See more on ASCIIMath syntax); or
  2. Use simple LaTeX in the following format. Surround your math with \( and \).
    \( \int g dx = \sqrt{\frac{a}{b}} \)
    (This is standard simple LaTeX.)

NOTE: You can mix both types of math entry in your comment.


Tips, tricks, lessons, and tutoring to help reduce test anxiety and move to the top of the class.