Why do I have to learn this? This is stupid.

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Daniel Gonzalez, Jun 20, 2019.

  1. Daniel Gonzalez

    Daniel Gonzalez New Member

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    Jun 20, 2019

    A question/comment I've received from my students in various forms oh just about a million times in my short time teaching.

    I currently teach pre-algebra, algebra I, and geometry at a private school. I've only been teaching for a few months and I've already heard this a bunch of times. Why do I have to learn this? Why is this important? Why do I have to learn this if I can just use the calculator on my phone? I'm never going to use this. This is dumb. etc. etc.

    This doesn't come from all students because many of them see the value in learning these things or have plans to go into a field that requires them, but many don't. Pre-algebra is kind of easy, because they are not yet beyond the level of math they'll use in everyday life on a frequent basis. Even some of Algebra and Geometry. But there are things in both that don't tend to get used, and I'll be teaching pre-calc and calculus over the summer in a couple of weeks.

    I have tried "you never know if you might change your mind on what you want to do" but that doesn't usually work. Some of these kids are so sure they already know what they want to do with their lives that are confident they'll never use it.

    I have tried "you'll need to do this on the SAT/ACT to get a good score and get into a good college" and that is usually met with more "that's dumb".

    I have tried googling to find the best real-life applications of whatever it is they are asking about, and often they are inadequate to convince them.

    I have tried "learning new things helps sharpen your mind and will make you smarter" which is true but doesn't usually convince them.

    For the calculator question, I usually say that they need to understand the concepts to use it on their calculator correctly, but that's not strictly always true.

    All in all, I do not feel like I have been adequately responding to these questions/comments. How do you respond to these things?
     
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  3. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

    “It’s sometimes hard to see how you’ll need something until you actually use it.”

    “Just because you don’t like what you are doing right now doesn’t make it dumb.”

    You can also preempt them by saying, “Tell me how you could use this in your everyday life.”
     
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  4. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

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    "The ability to utilize numbers and equations is built into many subjects. Deal with money? Math. Enjoy science? Math. Play music? Math."
    "If you can't imagine where you will need it, you obviously need more practice with it."
     
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  5. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Jun 20, 2019

    Love this!
     
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  6. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    A lot of it is them trying to get under your skin. A bit of selective hearing may be appropriate.
     
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  7. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    Many of the most lucrative career fields these days are heavy in mathematics requirements. That won't appeal to all students, but it's worth pointing out. Engineering, coding, finance, and medicine are a few of the many fields that require extensive math knowledge. Perhaps in the first week of school, you could have students research and write a page about a career that involves math.

    As much as I hate the argument, to be honest most adults will not use more than basic pre algebra in their daily lives. Math does teach good logic and problem solving methods, however, which are valuable life skills.

    The most valuable math class skills for me were data analysis and interest or banking information. As a teacher, I regularly use percentiles and averages when looking at students' test scores. As a consumer, knowing about interest rates and loans helps me make smarter financial decisions.

    I do wish that students were able to choose a career track when they got to high school. For someone who knows they want to be an auto mechanic or a hair stylist, it would be a lot more meaningful to offer them courses related to their interests than trying to stuff everyone into a one size fits all template.
     
  8. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    Jun 20, 2019

    If one subscribes to Lesson Design's seven elements (or nine for some) "Anticipatory Set" or why students need the skill/concept is usually stated or imparted in some form from teacher to students at the beginning of the lesson. There are some who argue if the teacher can't come up with a good reason for the lesson it shouldn't be taught. The "Set" is often a "hook" to get students excited about the lesson via real-life examples. In this way, students' "Why...?" is answered in advance and usually cuts off "Do we have to?" - "This is dumb!" etc. If one makes "purpose" (A-Set) part of one's planning it's easier to map it out and research it in advance of the lesson then to be caught off-guard while on your feet and trying to tap dance some form of a scholarly rationale.
     
  9. TrademarkTer

    TrademarkTer Groupie

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    I teach calc and precalc

    I don't justify it to them. I find most who ask that question aren't sincerely interested in the types of answers some here are suggesting.

    My responses may include:

    "There's a test Friday."

    "What is this.....fake life?"

    "And you will use the War of 1812, Shakespearean literature, and stoichiometry on a daily basis, right?"

    It usually gets a few giggles, and then shuts them up.
     
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  10. Pi-R-Squared

    Pi-R-Squared Groupie

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    Jun 21, 2019

    “Shut up and do your work now!”

    Hah ha ha!!! ;)
     
  11. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    If you want to be a doctor, engineer, computer scientist, etc.
     
  12. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Sometimes in life what you want to do and what you end up doing are two different things. Having the option to do a wide range of things in the future is better than being cornered into one or two things because your choices eliminated the possibility to change your mind.
     
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  13. Aces

    Aces Habitué

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    Jun 21, 2019

    I suppose it depends on how blunt you want to be.
    "I'm sorry you feel that way, but these subjects do open a wide range of opportunities I hope you'll explore."
    Or
    "I'm sorry you feel that way. Unfortunately, it has been deemed by the higher ups that you need this information and sometimes in life we have to do things we don't enjoy."
     
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  14. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    At least at my level (upper elementary) this seems to be enough for most kids. Telling them it's a state standard or that it will be on the Big State Test is often a satisfactory response. Usually the question is more about making excuses to be off task than it is about genuinely wanting to know the answer.

    I'll sometimes blame it on the State of ---, as in, "This is something that educational experts for the State of --- really want to make sure students know." Again, it's usually enough.
     
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  15. Aces

    Aces Habitué

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    Agreed. I didn't see it as much at my high school but it is more common of s complaint at the middle school.
     
  16. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    Middle school kids are perpetually disgruntled. Bless their hearts.
     
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  17. Aces

    Aces Habitué

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    I think it's the age. There's a lot going on in that general age bracket. They're trying to figure out who they are, how they fit into the grand scheme of things. Not to mention trying to navigate puberty and all that comes with that.
     
  18. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    Jun 23, 2019

    I tell my kids on the first day that they likely won't use 90% of the the things they learn in my class but they are going to love it. I then tell them I don't learn anything when I go to Disneyland but that doesn't stop me from paying attention when I'm there. So, when they ask that question I just say "you won't" with a smile and don't engage.

    They don't actually want to know when they are going to use it, they are just bored. Fix that part and the question goes away.
     
  19. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    Question: Why?
    Answer: Why not?

    Why not learn just to learn.

    Another thought, too, in this age of information, mathematical understanding greatly assists in weeding out misinformation.
     
  20. kellzy

    kellzy Comrade

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    Jun 24, 2019

    Because you are not heathen. You are a member of a civilization. The civilization you are a part of requires that you have knowledge of certain things, even if you never use it once in your entire life. The civilization you are a part of has determined that this topic is one of those things that you must know for our civilization.
    Deal with it.
    Don't like it, you have two options. 1. Become Tarzan, move to a deserted island and swing from the trees. or 2. Grow up, get extremely educated and if you still don't see a value for it, work change it.
     
  21. Master Pre-K

    Master Pre-K Virtuoso

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    Yep. Especially if this is a standard reply to everything but... time to line up and go to the lunch.
     
  22. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Disneyland is a terrific place to engage one's knowledge of physical science, rhetoric, visual and performing arts, and math, at the very least, if one is open to doing so. (The principle here is the teachable moment, in reverse.)

    Experience suggests that one of the wellsprings of the "When are we ever gonna use this? This is stupid" remark is fear of failure or struggle: it's more comfortable to sneer at or make jokes about a field of knowledge than it is to risk looking stupid in it. It might be that we teachers need to be better at normalizing discomfort and struggle.
     
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  23. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    So true. Just as it's more comfortable to be the "clown" than it is to admit that you don't understand.
     

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