Real-world problems can stimulate interest in math

It was with sad agreement that I read the article by Charlie Smith describing the state of mathematics education [“Battling B.C.’s math crisis”, November 1-8]. As mathematics instructors at the B.C. Institute of Technology, my coworkers and I are intimately familiar with the large number of technical careers that students are cut off from by a less than ideal background in math and science—before they even become familiar with those options.

At BCIT, our approach to ensuring student interest has been to use real-world applications of math to clearly tie the math they are learning to applications from their program and career path at BCIT. We have found that students find these real applications of math exciting and enjoy learning why math is useful.

Recently, we started a project aimed at high-school students using real-world problems to demonstrate where professionals in various careers would use the math skills that students are learning. Our hope is that through the applied problems in the Building Better Math database (, high-school students will become aware of the existence of the many exciting career choices that require a good background in math, science, and technology and choose to remain in those classes. Our project is in its first trial in a number of B.C. high schools.

> Andrew McConnell / Math Department Head, BCIT