It was in first grade, I believe, when I felt an inner pull toward entrepreneurship. I’m not sure whether it came from the ringing of change in my corduroy pocket or whether manufacturing something and marketing it already appealed to me, but I went about my start-up with an ice cream stand. For several summers my father let me go on believing the money I was pocketing was pure profit before gently pointing out that after factoring in the cost of ingredients, cook time, and hours worked, not to mention my attempts at luring customers with samples, the net profits hardly totaled more than an enjoyable time.
Just how vital is mathematics to any given job? It actually goes far beyond just measuring things, sending out invoices, and closing out the monthly budget. It even goes beyond my early wake-up call that without math you might not make a profit. In today’s manufacturing jobs mathematics plays an integral role in the steps of the production process, and employers actively seek those who count basic mathematics skills as a must for job preparedness. Whether in product design, machine programming, or budget calculations, employees need to know how to use basic algebra and input a value into a formula to be able to estimate the outcome and what it will mean for the business.
The number of available manufacturing jobs is on the rise right now, but 80% of employers report a lack of applicants that possess the level of mathematics skills they are looking for. Employees’ degree of preparedness may fall short because they don’t realize that the amount of math used in manufacturing rivals that of the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). With all the talk of machines and automated everything, they cannot perform without workers entering precise values, and worker miscalculations can lead to costly recalls and worse. If electronic or metal parts need correction, employees need fractions or decimals to calculate size or shape change. Design, making adjustments, budgeting, production--all of these use math.
In Toyota’s motor vehicle production line, more is asked of workers than monotonous assembly-line construction. Employees are expected to be able to look at the current process with analytical eyes and suggest new ideas and improvements. This is exactly what one group of line workers did when they used mathematics to design a hoist for vehicles’ hoods. They began by calculating the torque, fluid density, and acceleration the device would require, then used trigonometry to ensure a correct angle and algebra to stabilize the control circuits.
A growing number of job opportunities for manufacturing in the new age can introduce applicants armed with basic mathematics skills to fields such as aerospace, architecture and building, and electronic component production. Hopefully, instead of finding the idea of refreshing or furthering their studies daunting, potential workers will think of the doors this need is opening. It is certainly being realized in classrooms like Mr. Dave Young’s at Sedro-Woolley High School in Washington, where students use their algebra skills in accordance with manufacturing principles to design products, then bring them to life using computer technology. They develop business models and then run a business that sees actual revenue.
For students entering the work force and workers already rooted in the manufacturing field, refreshing their mathematics skills is an investment in advancing their careers.
Achieve, Inc. (2008). "Mathematics at Work." Retrieved from https://www.achieve.org/files/MathatWork-Manufacturing.pdf
Lenson, B. (2012). "New Manufacturing Jobs Require Keener Math Skills." [Web]. Retrieved from https://www.straighterline.com/blog/new-manufacturing-jobs-require-keener-math-skills/
Weinberg, A. (2017). "New class brings math, manufacturing to life." [Web]. Retrieved from https://www.goskagit.com/news/new-class-brings-math-manufacturing-to-life/article_926c5302-c7b8-5d03-b063-b2352cd525dd.html