Attention, adults, think back to your school days. How many of us reached the conclusion of our mandatory mathematics requirement — geometry, algebra and maybe even calculus and trigonometry — wondering why we were forced to study all that when we knew we’d never use it the rest of our lives. Until, that is, our children eventually ask us to help them with their math homework.

But if we don’t do the math, who will? It will be yet another job, yet another industry, that will be outsourced to a foreign country.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that in 2016, one of every 19 jobs created since 2006 will have been in computer information technology. About 1.6 million such job openings are expected over that 10-year period, with 854,000 of them new positions.

Unfortunately, the Associated Press reports that an annual survey by the Computing Research Association shows a 20 percent decrease this year in the number of students earning bachelor’s degrees in computer-related fields. Enrollment in undergraduate computer science programs is more than 50 percent lower than it was five years ago.

Meanwhile, thousands of members of the baby-boomer generation who led the information-age revolution are retiring, meaning that American technical workers in this arena will soon be in very short supply.

Information technology specialists are needed by almost every industry. These workers design, install and maintain the systems that companies must have in order to do business. If they are ill-equipped to do their work, or are unavailable, the nation’s economy suffers.

Math remains a less than exciting field for most students. Many good jobs are available to men and women who aren’t stereotypical “computer geeks.” Whatever the reason, high school students are not taking enough math, and even the minimum requirements of most schools aren’t sufficient for the nation’s industry needs.

Even if the interest did suddenly turn around, the AP reported that America’s universities may not have adequate facilities and instructors to handle them.

If the United States is to maintain its competitive advantage over the rest of the world, the next generation must prepare itself, and the educational community must be certain the facilities and incentives are in place to teach them.

Brownwood Bulletin