Now That Math is Your Child's Favorite Subject, Here Are Some Career Ideas  ~By JK Mergens

Most little boys want to grow up to be a fireman.  Little girls typically want to be a veterinarian or nurse.  Never do you hear, “I want to be a Mechanical Engineer when I grow up.”  But if you have a child who enjoys math and is fascinated by machinery, then Mechanical Engineering may be the perfect career choice.  As homeschooling parents, the best thing we can do for our children is to help them select a career that interests them and then show them the path to get there.

Our son grew up watching his Dad build houses, so the construction industry was an obvious career choice for him.  But our son was more interested in climbing the corporate ladder, than an actual ladder.  He really excelled in math, so my husband and I explained to him that an engineer is the person who uses math to make sure the houses will be strong enough to withstand high wind speeds and heavy snow loads.  His eyes popped open and from that moment on he knew he wanted to be a Structural Engineer.  Now we just had to figure out how to accomplish that goal.

We did some research and found that he would need to earn a Bachelor’s of Science in Civil Engineering in order to become an engineer.  Before that, he would need to earn an Associate’s Degree.  His path was set.  He graduated at 16, enrolled in college, took all the required classes, and by age 21 he had that degree. Today he is a successful Structural Engineer.

If you have a student who enjoys math, then engineering may be an excellent career choice.  There are several different types of engineering professions, and knowing a little bit about some of them may help you find an intriguing career path for your math loving student.

Transportation Engineer

Have you ever seen a map that shows a freeway with one of those “four-leaf clover” on/off ramp systems?  Have you ever noticed that some yellow lights stay on longer than other traffic lights?  And why do you suppose the angle of the road changes during a sharp curve?  It is all based on math.  A Transportation Engineer is the one who designs our roads and freeways, and each decision is made using math.  If your child seems fascinated by this design, then this may be the career path for him/her.  The next time you are driving with your children, point out these things, and start a conversation about Transportation Engineers.


Structural Engineer

Have you ever heard of someone wanting to remove a wall in their house, but uncertain whether or not it is a load bearing wall?  Well, my son can tell you.  He combined his math skills with his construction knowledge and became a Structural Engineer.  He now spends his days calculating things like what size beams should be used in order for a building to be structurally sound.  How many and what size nails are required to make sure a house doesn’t sway in the wind or fall during an earthquake.  He can tell you how much concrete needs to be poured into the ground to make sure a tall sign won’t fall over.  He uses geometry to draw the construction plans, and believe it or not he uses algebra every day.   


Electrical Engineer

Have you ever blown a fuse in your house?  Did you have to go to the fuse box, and flip a switch to restore the power?  That panel of circuits is what it takes to give your house enough power.  Now imagine the size of panel it must take to run a shopping mall.  That type of electrical panel needs to be designed by an Electrical Engineer.

An electrician runs wires through your house and hooks them up to the electrical outlets and lights.   An Electrical Engineer is the one who designs an electrical system.  For example, an airplane has miles of wires inside it to provide things like the little overhead lights and seatbelt signals.  An electrical engineer is the one who draws this system on paper as a guide for the electricians to use as directions.

To find out if you have a young electrical engineer, purchase a toy similar to this one, and see how long it keeps his/her interest.


Civil Engineer

The next time it rains, have your children watch where the water goes.  Does it flow down the roof, into the gutters and then disappear into an underground pipe?  Does it run down the street and drain into a steel grate?  Rain water has to be routed to the right place, so the streets and your yard don’t flood.  There are miles of pipes underground and they are all designed by a Civil Engineer.

Ask your kids where they think the water in the kitchen sink goes or where it came from.  They are both connected to another set of underground pipes.   A Civil Engineer has to make sure drain/wast pipes run downhill or are pumped uphill.  If you could see through the ground, you would see all kinds of pipes, tanks and pumps.  That is called the infrastructure.  This is all the work of a Civil Engineer.

If your family has ever been through a flood, explain to your child how it happened and see if he/she is interested in finding a cure.  Sometimes, a tragedy can be the catalyst for a career path.

Mechanical Engineer

When I was a child, I watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on TV.  During a segment of that show called “Picture Picture,” Mr. Rogers would show footage of a factory at work.  I loved watching how the machines could do stuff like turn a roll of metal into soup cans, and then seconds later, they are labeled, sealed, and packed in a box.  Those machines are designed by Mechanical Engineers.  They use math and ingenuity to design machines with moving parts to perform a certain task.  This is called automation.

One day when I was homeschooling my son, we spent a few hours making a little contraption that would ultimately turn on a little fan.  It started by dropping a ball down a plastic racecar track.  That would trigger something else to cause a chain reaction until, finally, something heavy would land on the button that powered the fan.  It was much like the game “Mouse Trap.”

Try making a mini-factory or gravity-powered contraption during your homeschool day, and see if it sparks any interest. We had a blast making ours.


Is Math Holding Your Student Back?

These are just a few examples of the many, many math-related careers.  I encourage you to take a day to explore some career options with your children.  Look for their individual strengths and interests and then give them ideas of occupations that use those skills.  If math is holding them back from their dream job, try reading my series of math books, Learn Math Fast System.  Even if your child is years behind in math, it’s not too late to give them the tools and power they need to get the degree of their choice.


JK Mergens is the author of the Learn Math Fast System, a series of seven books that teach 1st - 12th grade math using the unique methods she created to teach her son.  JK has been married to Mick, her high school sweetheart, for thirty-eight years.  Together they homeschooled their only son in the beautiful state of Washington.  Her articles have been published in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Red Deer’s Child Magazine, Edmonton’s Child Magazine, and in the June 2014 issue of the Washington State Homeschool Organization’s (WHO) Newsletter.