As a counselor, you’re often the first and most trusted source of advice for your high school students’ academic career. Parents may not be knowledgeable about specific course requirements (although they are often concerned) and teachers might not have the big-picture view that you do. For this reason, it’s important that you encourage your students to take the math classes they need to get into the IT program of their choice.
Math is, in many ways, the door that future IT workers need to walk through if they want to succeed in their field. Ironically, “math anxiety” and lack of interest in math prevents many students from pursuing IT. That’s where you come in. The mastery of math is paramount to student success in IT, so taking the bare minimum of math classes (2 or 3 years for most high schools), or taking just the easiest classes, isn’t going to cut it.
Four years of math in high school should be every IT student’s goal. Even if a student feels they are “strong” in math and don’t need to take a fourth year of it, remind them that they’ll be even stronger if they continue learning and practicing.
Here are three broad IT pathways that students can choose from, and the corresponding math classes they should take in high school to prepare for each pathway:
- Programming and Software Development
- Grade 9: Algebra
- Grade 10: Geometry
- Grade 11: Algebra 2 or Statistics
- Grade 12: Statistics or Precalculus
- Systems and Network Administration, Security and Systems
- Grade 9: Algebra
- Grade 10: Geometry
- Grade 11: Algebra 2 or Statistics
- Grade 12: Statistics or Precalculus
- Web Design/Development and Digital Communications
- Grade 9: Algebra
- Grade 10: Geometry
- Grade 11: Algebra 2 or Statistics
- Grade 12: Statistics or Precalculus
Although Algebra 2 OR Statistics are listed as possibilities for 11^{th} grade, the mastery of statistics is highly recommended to increase the likelihood of understanding programming concepts and networking.
While no math class is “required” for 12^{th} grade students pursuing a Systems and Network Administration pathway, be aware that an additional year of math would probably be advisable. For example, if they took Algebra 2 their junior year, taking Statistics their senior year would make sense.
Helping Your Students Deal with Math Anxiety
Math Anxiety is a learned psychological response to math, and is often the result of negative or embarrassing experiences with math early in an individual’s education.
The following tips, taken from this document from Austin Community College, contain some helpful tips for dealing with math anxiety.
Encourage your students to:
- Seek help as soon as they need it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions during class, and especially, during office hours
- Be creative. Use the Internet or other books (besides the classroom textbook) to serve as aids
- Keep up with homework assignments and study every night, regardless of whether or not it’s “required.” Just like lifting weights for ten hours straight won’t suddenly turn you into a body builder, cramming for a test the night before won’t guarantee you a good grade
- Focus on their own performance. Although study groups can be helpful, comparing grades can be counter-productive