kitchen table math, the sequel: help desk - jobs

Sunday, September 4, 2011

help desk - jobs

I have a question.

What kinds of math-related jobs exist for students who like math but aren't going to be math majors in college?

What kinds of math-related jobs are taught in vocational schools? (I'm thinking of the schools Steve H has mentioned.)


gasstationwithoutpumps said...

Does the student like anything besides math? There are lots of jobs that are good for people who like math, but most require more than just math (engineering, statistics, physics, … ).

The question is ill-posed, so can't really be answered reasonably.

Catherine Johnson said...


low-level accounting?

What kinds of jobs involve arithmetic?

Crimson Wife said...

Very few of my DH's colleagues in the financial services industry were math majors. Most of them were either engineering or economics majors. The math coursework that math majors take is very theoretical, while the quantitative courses that engineers and econ majors take are applied ones.

SteveH said...

Actually, the vocational path might be best for students who are not so great in math, but want a degree and a technical education. You might get math courses that are more appropriate for your needs.

See New England Institute of Technology. ( It's all about getting an associate or Bachelor's of Science degree. It it very well regarded, but not cheap. They are very focused on specific careers. You can get the degree piece of paper AND be trained for a specific career.

Here are some of the careers they list.

Clinical Medical Assistant
Surgical Tech
Medical Engineering Tech
Interior Design
Physical Therapy Assistant
Construction Management
Multimedia and Web Design
Video and Radio Production
Digital Recording Arts Tech
Automotive High Performance
Automotive Tech
Auto Collision Repair
Electronics Engineering
Mechanical Engineering
Game Development & Simulation Programming

I found the course catalog and can find math prerequisites for courses, but I haven't found a list of math courses for each degree. I did find that the Electronics Engineering Bachelor's Degree requires a course called Calculus II.

"The Bachelor of Science Degree in Electronics Engineering Technology is accredited by the Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET,..."

I don't know whether businesses worry about who accredited your degree. Those who know about the school would never compare this engineering degree with one from the state's university, but will that difference matter in 10 years in an area that doesn't know about the school?

SteveH said...

I should have asked what you mean by "like math"? Lots of jobs might need people who can put together spreadsheets and not have a fit with empirical equations. That is probably the best venue for these people. You probably won't find a posted job that asks for a spreadsheet guru, but you might be able have a job where you can evolve into that person.

There is also computer-aided design that is in demand by architects and engineering firms. If you are really good at 3D geometric modeling (e.g SolidWorks or Rhino), you will most likely always be in demand. I don't know if you would call that math.

In general, I would make a distinction between those who want to do math and those who want a job which will take advantage of their ability to handle math-like attention to sequence and details. I've met a number of people without degrees who have an amazing ability to handle technical details, some of which involves math.

Catherine Johnson said...


Thank you!

That's exactly what I was asking.

I'm hesitant to post anything about this - privacy issues - but I've been working with a student who is classified SPED ('high-end SPED' - the kind of kid who wouldn't have been classified 15 or 20 years ago).

He likes math and he's what I call 'good at math,' meaning he has a good number sense. (At least, I believe he has a good number sense -- and I trust my perceptions in this case, not that you guys should necessarily...)

He was always interested in numbers as a little kid (he's not at all autistic, fyi); he used to go over baseball statistics closely, etc.

The school has done a lousy job with him. He's diagnosed as having "slow processing" and low working memory -- and my perception is that the school has concluded from these factoids that he can't do math, period.

But math is what he's good at comparatively speaking, and it's the subject he's naturally interested in.

I worked with him when he was a little kid; he came to my Singapore Math class for awhile. (His mom and I are friends.) I remember when he first came, it took him 10 minutes to do a 5-minute Saxon Math sheet.

By the third time he came to class, he could do a 5-minute sheet in under 5-minutes.

This summer I started working with him again because he didn't pass the Regents exam. Same exact thing: he may have slow processing, but he has fast learning. I'm not sure what 'slow processing' means, but I assume it means that it takes him longer to assimilate what you're talking about. I just let him have whatever time he needs, and I make sure he is never, ever, without a pencil in his hand. EVERY SINGLE THING we go over, I have him instantly show me whether he can or cannot reproduce it independently on a piece of paper.

result: in a VERY short period of time, he went from a 57 on the test to a 78 -- and if we'd had another week we would have gotten him up to an Honors pass easily.

Yes, it takes him a long-ish amount of time to absorb an idea or procedure, but once he absorbs it, he's got it. I see him as having very low forgetting. (I could be wrong, but that's my impression.)

Long story short: yes, this student has some kind of learning or processing problems.

BUT he is also, at the same time, drawn to math &, I think, good at math -- or could be good at math.

When I say 'math,' I mean arithmetic, algebra, geometry -- I have no idea what he'd do with calculus if someone actually taught him something.

He likes numbers!

That's what I'm saying.

I'm asking about careers/jobs that involve work with numbers.

Steve - THANK YOU!

Catherine Johnson said...

math-like attention to sequence and details

I wish I knew what that meant!

(In the case of an individual, I mean.)

I'm guessing this kid is going to be 'good' at geometry -- although he'll probably fail geometry if he doesn't have a tutor teaching it one-on-one.

What I know about this kid is that he likes numbers, he has a natural number sense (I believe), and he's drawn to 'math' or arithmetic or whatever I should be calling it.

Catherine Johnson said...

I want to repeat this point: people with learning problems still have talents or aptitudes (or affinities) for particular subjects.

I have the sense this is something my school doesn't perceive.

In my district, if you're a talented student, the school naturally assumes you have aptitudes for **specific** areas (and, accordingly, not for others). Thus C. was everywhere and always seen as good at history and English and bad at math.

If you're **not** a talented student, you are seen as having no specific aptitudes at all. You're assumed to be equally bad at everything.

My school, it appears, recognizes the idea of "g" as a general intelligence that applies to all subjects only in the case of SPED kids, but not in the case of academically talented kids.

I believe that with kids who struggle academically, you better find out what they like and have the potential to be good at and then hit that subject HARD ---- make sure they learn it & learn it well.

SteveH said...

math-like attention to sequence and details

"I wish I knew what that meant!"

I'm not sure myself, exactly, but I've met a number of people (without degrees) who are quite amazing when it comes to their ability to do complex tasks. They aren't necessarily the fastest learners, but they really like what they are doing and have the ability to handle details.

The best examples of this I've seen are the people who have created extraordinarily complex 3-dimensional computer graphics models and renderings. There is a whole world of geometry out there that has little to do with what you see in high school. See if this student likes computer-aided design. Some high schools offer these courses, but unfortunately, some classes drive out any interest you might have. It might work better to hire a private tutor to introduce someone to this world. Have you ever heard of 3D printers? There are huge opportunities for 3D CAD specialists, from artistic design, animation, computer games, construction, architecture, and into numerical controlled construction.

I wouldn't really call it doing math, but it helps if you understand some of the math behind the processes.

Amy P said...

Here are my contributions:



I don't know much about these two jobs, but my dad has a master's in math and I remember him studying for the blaster's exam when he was about my age (he did blasting for the U.S. Forest Service). It was really hard, but paid pretty well, relatively speaking. And if you mess up, BOOM!

ChemProf said...

Surveying! If he likes being outside, this is a great one for math-minded folks who don't fit the typical academic mold. My father is a surveyor, without a degree as he basically apprenticed to his father. He also trained a young man I knew growing up, who's now working for a city in the area as party chief.

In New York, it looks like you can either get a BS in Surveying Technology or an AAS degree from several different schools. Here are a couple of links. He would need a good grasp of trig (surveying is basically triangles), but that's all.

I don't know which programs are well regarded in New York, but there is a Land Surveyor's Association that he could get in touch with ( They love to evangelize the field, and since civil engineers don't learn surveying anymore, there are pretty good opportunities out there.