Friday, June 08, 2012

The importance of the third "R"

As a child, I went to school to learn "reading, writing and 'rithmatic", also known as the three R's.   Arithmetic (a branch of mathematics) is impressed upon us as being important; as important as reading.  However, since many of the devices around us do simple arithmetic for us, we tend to rely on those devices instead of our own abilities.  But can you be an information professional without being good at arithmetic and mathematics?

  • Can you create a project proposal for a new digitization program without calculating server space requirements, time estimates for specific aspects of the work, or costs of purchasing services?
  • Can you decide on the resources needed to create metadata for a collection without doing math?
  • Can you decide on the best deal for digital asset management software without using math?
  • Can you make decisions about your book or resource budget without doing any calculations?
  • Can you provide input on your organization's budget without math?
  • Can you analyze detailed cost quotes if you cannot do math?
  • Can you double-check a vendors invoice without math?
  • Can you evaluate a job offer if you cannot do math?
  • Can you...?
In other words, arithmetic and mathematics are not just for those people interesting STEM related professions (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).  Everyone in the information profession needs math skills.  Everyone.

Do you need to learn calculus and trigonometry?  Likely not, although you will give your brain a good exercise by doing so.  You do need to be able to sit in a meeting (or in your office), run calculations and know that they are correct.

Need a math refresher? 
  • Put away the calculator and start using a pen and paper. 
  • Don't rely on someone else to calculate something for you.  Do it yourself.
  • Check out the arithmetic and pre-algebra videos from the Khan Academy.
Yes, I selected the information profession because you believe it is a word-based field.  Surprise, it's not.  Instead this is a field where math skills are integral to what you will do everyday.  (I had two hiring managers today emphasize this!)

1 comment:

C in DC said...

It used to amuse me when in library school I would be asked, "What's a math major doing in archives?" Electronic records, library technology, grant writing, etc. Thanks for highlighting this.