Kevin Drum wonders:

So aside from the 10-15% of people who take up professions that require a mathematical background, is there much point in teaching math beyond about the sixth grade to the rest of them? I suspect it serves little purpose, and despite what people like me would like to think, I very much doubt that it instills any useful habits of mind either.

Sigh.

My response, in his comments:

Well this was an utterly depressing post to read.

I taught high school math for two years. Kevin, you sound like half the kids grousing, "Why do we have to learn this junk?"

I'll say here the same thing I said to them, "Will you need to solve problems in your life?"

Mathematics is the language of logic. You are given a problem. You are given the rules. You are given the tools to solve the problem. You plan, then proceed step by step in solving the problem. Now, not every student can see how learning to factor a trinomial affects their thinking generally, but it does.

That said, I echo some of the thoughts here in wishing that more of high school math were devoted to practical mathematics. I also wish every high school student had to take a year of basic logic and probability. One is a better citizen, a better contributor to democracy, if one is better at recognizing logical fallacies and discerning lies in statistics.

But this is disheartening when you say you love math. If you loved it, why are you so incapable of seeing its practical value among the general population?

Well?