7 August 2009 09:29 AM

Math Careers and Sylvan Prep

by Dr. Rick

Looks like if you want a really, really good paying job right out of college, you’d better be up on your math skills!


According to the Summer 2009 Salary Survey of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (www.naceweb.org) the five highest starting salaries for bachelor’s level college graduates all require a rigorous background in math.  Four of the five highest are engineering disciplines, and the fifth is computer science.

  • Petroleum engineering, $83,000
  • Chemical engineering, $65,000
  • Mining engineering, $64,000
  • Computer engineering, $62,000
  • Computer science, $61,000

Over the years, as I’ve talked to students, one of the most common questions I’m asked is the familiar, “Why do we have to learn this?”  This question is applied indiscriminately to English, history, art, science, and math.  We teachers have our heartfelt answers, but now it seems that math teachers have the economy on their side, too.


Want a good job?  Better be pretty good at problem-solving.  Accountants, architects, biologists, chemists, managers, the military, doctors and nurses, and technicians all need to have good math skills.


Want some ideas to help you take responsibility and action with your math skills?  Let me count the ways.

  1. Get help early.  Regular readers of this blog have seen this tip repeatedly, probably one of the most important for all subjects, but especially for math.  When you suspect you’re having trouble, get help right away.  Get a tutor, ask a teacher for help, get help from a math talented friend, just get help.

  2. Review regularly.  Like most subjects, and more than most, math builds skill upon skill.  A weak foundation can affect future learning.  Review your class notes, chapter readings and assignments, even your past quizzes and tests.  Learn from your mistakes.  Look for areas where you could improve.  Take control of your learning.

  3. Have a study buddy.  Another one of my favorite learning techniques.  Learn with a friend.  Study together.  Do assignments together.  Quiz each other.  Compete with each other.  Celebrate successes with each other.  And while you’re at it, eliminate from your life those “friends” who bring you down with their negative influences.  They’re not really friends. 

  4. Organize yourself.  A math teacher colleague of mine suggests that students keep a “math journal,” which, as an English teacher who espouses journal-writing, I heartily endorse.  Write about the areas you’re having particular problems with.  Write about your successes.  Write using the language and vocabulary of math.  Self-knowledge is the first step toward self-improvement.

  5. Be persistent.  Persistence and patience go hand in hand.  Don’t give up.  (See my blog of 29 December 2008, which addresses how parents can help their students stay focused.)  There’s much to be said for sticking with a problem until you’ve mastered it.

  6. Do positive self-talk.  Remind yourself of all the work you’ve done, of the improvements you’ve made recently, of the new organizational skills you’ve put into your life, of the many hours you and your study buddy have put in, of your improving quiz grades.  Get that confidence up!  (See my blog of 4 May 2009, which addressed girls and math phobia but can be equally relevant to boys.)

  7. Do your homework regularly.  Religiously.  Responsibly.  Remember that every time you miss an assignment, you’re weakening the foundation upon which you want to build.  What happens to math skills built upon a weak foundation?  Same thing as what happens to a house built upon a weak foundation.

  8. Prepare for tests.  Start studying for tests well before the date.  Cramming may work for a very short time, but you won’t remember anything later.  What’s the good of that?  Do you want to be operated on by a surgeon who crammed for your operation?

  9. Ask questions.  When you’re unsure of something in class, ask questions.  You’re not the only student with that question.  You’re just the only one smart and confident enough to ask.  Sometimes it’s good to ask even when you think you know the answer – it can bind a concept or skill even stronger in your mind.

  10. Check out Sylvan Math Prep.  The company I work for, Sylvan Learning, is making available a new, helpful resource to middle and high school students.  It’s an online site that delivers more than 2.000 instructor-led videos covering 750 lessons in pre-algebra, Algebra I, Algebra II, and geometry.  You don’t need any special software or hardware.  You can practice lessons to your heart’s content, as often as you want, at your own pace.  And you get a free two-day trial.  Check it out at www.sylvanmathprep.com. 

So, if you’re looking ahead to high school or college, if you’re contemplating exciting, high-paying jobs for your future, or if you’re serious about improving your academic skills and attitudes, polish up those math skills.  The future is yours. 




Add comment


  • Comment
  • Preview

Blog Posting Rules

This blog is for the good of education - for students, for teachers and for parents. I very much value a two-way communication with you and welcome and encourage your comments and feedback. However, to facilitate a constructive conversation that is beneficial to everyone in this online community, I expect the same respect in your comments that I present in my blog.

Read the full Dr. Rick Blog Posting Rules.