Why learn math

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by American, Apr 17, 2009.

  1. American

    American Rookie

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    Apr 17, 2009

    I would like math teachers to share the discussion. As a math teacher I was several times asked by my students that why they should learn algebra which they never use in real life. This how I explained:
    1) As I know java programming I could develop and demonstrate a
    grocery store computer billing programme which uses a linear
    equation to compute the bill. I also explained to them that every
    computer software uses low or advanced math equations.
    2) I explained to them that a good GPA is an indicator of their
    good learning ability and hard working nature. So employers
    need not to spend much time and money on training them
    for the job so they would be prefered for hiring.
    3) When they grow as adults they could help their kids in homework.

    How did you guys dealt with the same situation ?
     
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  3. myangel52

    myangel52 Comrade

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    Apr 17, 2009

    Algebra is just solving for unknowns -- which we do all the time, but most people don't write it down. When we figure out how much money we need to pay bills -- algebra. When we need to figure out what the loan payments will be for that new car or the house -- algebra. Figure out sales tax? Algebra. Paycheck, after with-holdings? Algebra... Gas mileage, time to travel from A to B, cost of groceries, how much of this do I need to buy to feed my family, you name it, you can relate it to algebra.

    What they learn in school is just the formalized way of writing it down to show someone else, and/or the abstract version of it. It all applies, though.
     
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  4. American

    American Rookie

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    Apr 17, 2009

    I agree with you. That's how it should be explained.By definition algebra is the generalization of arithmetic. But I would like to know your past experience that how did you handle the situation and could you sell the concept to the students by 100%
     
  5. robinsky

    robinsky Rookie

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    I got really tired of students asking that question. There is no doubt that many people will never use some of the math concepts they learn in school. So I sat down and thought about it, and the next day I took 5 minutes and gave this little speech to my kids. Basically, learning math teaches a person how to think logically and abstractly. It trains your brain to notice details, to be logical, to make sure you have reasons for each step of your plans. These skills are critical for a person to be able to navigate our world, to be an informed citizen, to make decisions your whole life. I talked to them about people who get taken in by scams because they don't recognize when arguments don't make sense.

    Then I asked them if they were ready now, at 12 years old (I teach middle school), to cut off any possibility of ever having a job that required math. Yes, many people don't use linear equations in their daily life, but even 12-year-olds realize that they want to keep their options open for the future!

    This actually went over very well with my middle-school kids, and I rarely get that kind of question any more.
     
  6. American

    American Rookie

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    Thank you for sharing your experience Robinsky. I could convince most of the students but still there are some lazy a**** who chose not to convince even after I gave many examples. They get the grade they deserve anyway.
     
  7. SSA

    SSA Companion

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    Apr 17, 2009

    Even if you NEVER need anything beyond arithmetic in your life the application of algebra can make one better at arithmetic! Merely because one doesn't formally assign a variable to the result of how much my retirement account will grow if it averages 15% over the next three years doesn't mean that you aren't using algebra. A lot of adults are no better at multiplication than many 4th graders because they didn't pay attention in algebra class.

    I think a big problem is that often textbooks don't use a huge amount of application problems and sometimes even when they do the examples are sometimes a bit contrived.
     
  8. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Apr 18, 2009

    Algebra, and much of math, is the study of problem solving. It teaches you to organize information and apply a step by step process to solve the problem you've been presented with.

    As often as possible, I try to include real-life scenarios when I start a new topic. I frequently start with 'My 74 year old mom doesn't use this day-to-day, but it might be used by..." When they reply with "But I'm not going to be a ___" the answer is: "You're 14 and are dating a different person than you dated last week. How on earth do you know what you'll be doing in 20 years???" I have a good rapport with my kids, so they normally laugh and agree.
     
  9. Groovy

    Groovy Companion

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    Apr 18, 2009

    Since football is big here, I use this analogy:

    You lift weights, don't you? (or, "Your brother lifts weights...") Why, because you want to be a weight lifter when you grow up? No! You lift weights to build muscles that you will use for other things: playing football, impressing your girlfriend... well, math is like building mental muscles that you will use for other things. You're building little neuron connections in your brain that you will need later, to learn things you really like. Weightlifting and math don't have to be fun, but they will take you where you want to go!"
     
  10. blindteacher

    blindteacher Cohort

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    Apr 18, 2009

    What a great analogy!
     
  11. American

    American Rookie

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    Apr 18, 2009

    Excellent

    An excellent anology.
    Thank you for your post.
    This forum is really useful.
     
  12. MathManTim

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    Apr 18, 2009

    I had a math teacher who was a huge Star Wars and Star Trek geek. He once described learning math as "Jedi training for your brain". :D I agree with the general idea that it can sort of be "cross-training" for your mind, no matter what field you go into. In particular, lately it's been noted that many of the top scorers on the LSAT (the test to get into law school) are math majors or minors who have developed very strong logical reasoning skills because of it.

    I know one math teacher who had an approach to convincing students to take AP calculus that was very clever. In short, either you will go into a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) field, or you will not. If you do, then you will find that most of your college classmates will have taken calculus; indeed, your freshman physics professor may even assume that you've had AP calculus in high school. You may find yourself at a disadvantage if you don't take calculus.

    For non-STEM people, more than likely you will be required to take math in college, just like how STEM people are required to take electives in the humanities. They won't require you to go as far as calculus, though. Therefore, if you take calculus in high school, you can test out of it completely in college. AP calculus will therefore become the last math course you will ever take :down:. You can use the semesters you would have spent on math to take that course in Elizabethan poetry, the history of the Ottoman Empire, or whatever humanities or social science elective floats your boat.

    MathManTim
     
  13. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Apr 18, 2009

    My daughter hated math and wouldn't let me help her. Fast forward to the present: Same daughter works for a vet hospital and daily has to quickly calculate dosages of medicines in mLs (or other units) per pound weight. Same for any IVs, special diets, etc. She now wishes she had paid more attention in math.

    I always give my students examples related to percentages and shopping. Everybody likes a good sale! I usually mimic senior citizens conversing loudly about sale items that are 50% off, then another 50% off, so they must be free. (This works well, usually. In one student's case, when I wondered why she hadn't done well on a quiz since she "LOVES to shop", she replied, "Oh, but when I shop, I don't use my own money.")
     
  14. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Today I was at the bowling alley with my daughters. I went up to the counter for 2 slices of pizza (One for me, one for Kira, who changed her mind when the nuggets arrived.) Each slice cost $1.75.

    The girl at the counter had difficulty figuring out how much money I owed her. Thank goodness the cash register told her how much change I was owed from a $10 or heaven knows how I would have convinced her to give me the correct amount.

    We take math so people don't think we're imbeciles!!!!!
     
  15. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    My kids keep a "real life" math journal (middle school). Every week they are required to have two journal entries discussing a real life application of whatever topic we're discussing. I encourage them to use examples from their own lives, not some hypothetcial career in the future. To help them along, I use as many analogies as I can in my teaching that pertain to their actual lives. We've redecorated my living room countless times, computed my cost when I had to gut and remodel a bathroom, figured out the required amount of chemicals to stabilize my pool, designed a small bus system, done quality control for candy manufacurers (that one was with the math club...we weighed candy bars and performed basic hypothesis testing on means), and the list goes on. I think the real winner here is the math journal. Honestly, I don't ever hear the "when are we ever gonna use this" quesiton out of my kids any time past the first two or three weeks.
     
  16. American

    American Rookie

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    Apr 18, 2009

    Algebraic equations?????

     
  17. blindteacher

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    Apr 18, 2009

    Haha! Hilarious.
     
  18. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    That's their job to figure out :), and the whole point of the journals. Actually, algebraic equations, specifically lines, are easy. Party planning is the most common thing they come up with for that one. If they have a set budget and a set amount they have to spend on, say, the music, then they have to play around with the number of people they can invite and what kind of food they can serve. If you just have one unkown, the possibilities are endless.
     
  19. msleep

    msleep Rookie

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    I don't bother to justify teaching math. I tell my students that there is a difference between an education and life skills/job training.

    An education allows them to make connections to other knowledge and experiences. A skill allows them to do something over and over again without needing to know any more than they already do.
     
  20. alacris

    alacris Rookie

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    Mar 8, 2016

    thanks for sharing your experience. This is very useful post.
     

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