# Answering "Why do I have to learn this?"

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by motiv8r, Jul 10, 2009.

1. ### motiv8rRookie

Joined:
Jul 10, 2009
Messages:
33
0

Jul 10, 2009

Hi everyone,

I've been thinking about how to sell students on the value of whatever they are learning.

Imagine spending part of the first day of each school year telling the kids what selfish reasons they have to learn the subject you're teaching. My idea is that kids don't like being forced to do things, just like adults. Salemanship works so much better, right?

As an example, I will list below a bunch of reasons for studying math. I hope to post reasons for other school subjects later, if people on this forum are interested.

I'm receptive to frank feedback on any of my reasons. Also, what's the best way to present this information to students?

If any math teachers here want to actually try presenting this to students, I'd love to hear about how the students reacted.

OK, here it is:

You need a very solid understanding of early math to learn more advanced math and to learn various science and technical subjects.

When people try to persuade you of something, they sometimes quote statistics or the results of research studies. It helps to know how those kinds of numbers can be misleading, to avoid being fooled.

You might find yourself, in the future, needing to prove something using statistics. Even if you don't do the statistical analysis yourself, it helps to know ahead of time what statistics can and cannot prove. As a historical example, Florence Nightingale used statistics to persuade authorities to help her make effective improvements in medical care.

If you choose to study nursing, psychology, sociology, or social work at a university, you will be required to understand statistical analysis. And you will certainly be required to study it for any technical major.

Understanding statistics depends on understanding more basic kinds of math, like algebra.

Basic numerical analysis allows you to understand ideas that may seem counterintuitive at first sight. For example, the likelihood of "false positives" in disease testing might surprise you.

You will often need measurement and geometry skills when you perform do-it-yourself interior design for your home, and when you design and build things like artwork and practical home improvement constructions. Those skills also could help you arrange furniture and other things when planning a special event.

It might seem surprising that math would help you make art, but simply looking at your work is not enough sometimes. You'll want to use numbers to get physical proportions and color mixing correct.

Multiplying fractions makes it easier for you to adjust non-metric cooking recipes for the number of people you want to serve.

You will likely need to budget for expenses in your personal life. Also, budgeting arithmetic is essential at work if you ever act as a manager, business owner, or project producer.

Doctors and nurses need to know how to calculate appropriate drug doses using basic math.

Lawyers must sometimes evaluate facts involving dollar figures, measurements, and other numbers. Some cases might demand understanding of more sophisticated math than just arithmetic. Also, their thinking skills may be assisted by studying formal mathematical logic.

Jobs that pay above average for unskilled labor are becoming hard to find. Good pay increasingly depends on you offering technical skills that not anyone can offer; those skills, in turn, often require knowledge of math.

Arithmetic gives you the ability to compare different choices you have from a financial standpoint. For example, should you accept your boss's offer of a 4% (of your annual salary) bonus now or an alternative of a 2% raise starting after next year? Arithmetic and logic allow you to choose wisely.

Certain kinds of math, such as game theory, can assist you in making strategic decisions. This might help you not only in your personal life, but also in many kinds of work situations.

Computer programming requires at least a basic knowledge of algebra. Programming 3D computer games sometimes requires an excellent grasp of physics and the math underlying the physics laws.

Solving word problems gives you an idea of what kinds of real world problems are solvable mathematically. This is good to know when you are faced with real world problems, even if someone else will be solving the problem for you. Also, if you want to handle such a problem yourself, your practice with word problems should increase your chances of solving it successfully.

Learning math and solving problems is mental exercise and improves your thinking ability. Consider a comparison to physical exercise. When you are done running and weightlifting, you and the weights usually are in the same place as when you started, so it looks like you accomplished nothing. Yet you actually created a positive change inside yourself. Similarly, learning different kinds of math is good for you, even if you never use the specific techniques in your life.

Some studies suggest that people's mathematical abilities peak when they are college age. Since learning math concepts for the first time is sometimes difficult. It makes sense to try to learn as much math as possible as early as possible, rather than wait for evidence that you need it.

---

Wow, that was a lot to dump here. Thanks for reading this, and thank you in advance for any comments you have.

3. ### AliceaccMultitudinous

Joined:
Apr 12, 2006
Messages:
27,534
6

Jul 10, 2009

A great topic, but just not the right day for me to tackle this one.

4. ### behightNew Member

Joined:
Jun 15, 2009
Messages:
2
0

Jul 27, 2009

That is wonderful! I posted a question on this discussion board a while ago asking what are reasons students need math. I wanted more than the standard "because you have to"! This will be great, and I plan to make a poster for my room!

Thanks!

5. ### Mrs. QCohort

Joined:
Jan 31, 2007
Messages:
518
0

Jul 27, 2009

I think it's great to take the time to explain to students why they should "waste their time" learning your respective subject. I know that when I was in high school and even now that I'm in college, the most common complaint I heard was "But we don't even need this!" I think teachers sometimes get so caught up in what they HAVE to teach, that they sometimes fail to relate the reasons to their students.

Good luck with your plan, it sounds great so far!

6. ### motiv8rRookie

Joined:
Jul 10, 2009
Messages:
33
0

Jul 27, 2009

Thanks! I can't wait to hear what the kids said

I'm gratified to hear you want to use this material.

After you show the students your poster, will you post another message here, about how the kids reacted to it? I'm eager to hear about it.

Thank you.

7. ### Special-tEnthusiast

Joined:
Jun 1, 2008
Messages:
2,019
19

Jul 27, 2009

I use an activity when subbing middle and elementary school that's similar to your idea. I have the students fill out anonymous "What I want to do when I grow up" cards. I make a really big deal that the answers are secret and confidential. Then throughout the period (or in elementary - throughout the day), I draw a card. I write down the profession on the board (of course, all the kids are trying to guess whose card it is). Then we brainstorm what classes and skills that person will need to actually become that professional. Examples: If a kid picks the military then we brainstorm classes that will help that student be a better and more skilled soldier; if a kid picks an entry level position, we brainstorm how to get there and then what skills it will take to move up in the company for a bigger salary. It's really fun!

Joined:
Aug 10, 2007
Messages:
11
0

Aug 11, 2009

good post! I will do something with this in my classroom also.

Joined:
May 9, 2008
Messages:
27