Math voted most valuable school subject—but is it?

A recent Gallup poll concluded that Americans consistently rate math the most valuable subject they took in school, ahead of English, science, and history. Specifically, 34 % of those polled in both 2002 and 2013 rated math the most important subject. English, meaning English, reading, and literature, came in second, with 21 % in 2013 rating English the most important. Between 2002 and 2013, incidentally, science jumped from 4 % to 12 %. Figure 1 shows Gallup’s results for 2002 and 2013 in graphical form.

Figure 1. Percentage of responses to Gallup polls taken in 2002 and 2013. Mathematics held firm at 34 %, whereas science increased from 4 to 12 % at the expense of English, reading, and literature.

The preference for math decreased with increasing educational level, as shown in Figure 2, whereas English increased from 19 % among those with some high school education to 25 % among college graduates and holders of advanced degrees.

Figure 2. Percentage of responses grouped by educational level. The preference for mathematics decreases with increasing education, whereas English, reading, and literature increases.

The poll also found a gender gap, where one sex considered math to be the most important subject, and the other sex was split roughly evenly between math and English. I will let you guess which sex is which.

My point is that almost everyone except those with postgraduate degrees considers mathematics to be the most important subject, with English second. But are they right?

As a sometime teacher of technical writing to undergraduates, who sometimes reads material like this

As a team, we felt that a tube frame would be the best frame of choice. In order to decide on the particular material to use, factors such as strength to weight ratios, overall strength, and extreme temperature endurances had to be taken into account. A titanium alloy was the best choice. Pure titanium tubing was considered, however, they tend to be too soft and thus less practical for the frame. Weight was an important aspect as well. Grade-5 aluminum alloy has a density of 0.159 lbs/in3, is far less than that of steel at 3 lbs/in3. Steel was a metal to compare it too simply because it is so common,

I would have to say no. Even stripped of reading and literature, English is by far the most important subject any American learns in school. Without English, you cannot learn mathematics or history or anything else. That answer should be obvious. Indeed, in 2007, The New York Times noted that 45 % of HR executives advised, Young Workers: U Nd 2 Improve Ur Writing Skills. Only 5 %, incidentally, thought that young workers lacked computer or technology skills.