- Mister? When will I ever use this math thing? (He is talking about trigonometry..)
- Son, I will be honest. The chance of a gorgeous lady coming up to you and saying “I would love to go out with you, but if you could just tell me why the limit of sin(x)/x as x approaches 0 is equal to 1” are less than 5%. But if you become a designer and work for Six Flags, you can design more beautiful and dangerous roller coasters using algebra and geometry or when you have a baby, you can write a polynomial function to figure out how much money you will spend on diapers until your child learn how to use the toilet by himself/herself. Or if your father decides to give you a 32% raise, you can be happy in a really short time.
Iused to be a digital marketer after a studied pure math at the college. And I had never differentiated a function or had never seen a trigonometric function during that period. However, after a while, I had realized that my learning process had trained my brain to be able to solve any type of problem that I had been encountered in my social life. I was approaching my daily problems like they were math questions… Because
I did not want to learn calculus or algebra or geometry at the beginning. I just needed to learn how to learn a subject.
My first purpose was always finding a way to see how could I approach a problem even if it was a free response or multiple choice? I was utterly sure that, that approaching method would help me to learn anything that I want. To me, mathematics is always more than numbers.
Ihave never asked, “When will I ever use this?” And probably, “When will we ever use this?” be the most asked question in a math class and it is the question that teachers dread most. I am also utterly sure that PE teachers never get asked: “When am I ever going to play soccer in real-life?” This question is totally mathematicians’ burden.
When will I ever use this???
Remember your high school math class and the lecture about exponential functions. You probably were thinking there wasn’t a chance you’d ever use any of it in life?
Most of the times, those questions were compelling ones and they were coming from frustration. If students are not good at math and also if they could not solve the questions, and if you do not let them waste their time or distract other students, they start asking that notorious question. All they are trying to do a challenge to their teacher. It is obvious that they are not asking sincerely. Yet, we should assume that it is a natural reaction for a student.
Okay, but what if a student ask that famous question sincerely and looks for a real-life math proof?
At this point, we have a paradox.
Definition of a paradox: A seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.
We know that mathematics is certainly useful, however, it is so hard to explain to students how it can be useful for them. Unfortunately, our society has only a few things to show us to mathematical beauty. Furthermore, every individual in the classroom has different experiences with math. So, do we have the ability to inject into their teaching the real-life applications as teachers or parents? Nope… The real-life math is not fully introduced by most teachers. We don’t even ask the critical assessment questions like “What does student know?” and “What can the student do?” to gain the right information. In order to get things done, we simply have to teach all mathematical concepts.
Friends, amigos, parents, Romans… forcing students to read thick Calculus books or to recite thirty-two hundreds formulas clearly is not the way to convince students that math is useful. It is not the way we should teach and it is not why people study maths.
The purpose of teaching math is teaching everybody how to think. Learning math has to provide people an approach of solving whole life’s problems outside classrooms.
At the beginning it seems to you real-life problems have no connection with math problems that we learn at school. Actually, they have myriad connections. If you think deeply, you will see clearly all the problems you encounter during a day have something in common. For instance, all real-life problem-solving needs planning, rational thinking and approach, and testing. All process is exactly the same for a math question.
Let’s assume that you are solving a geometry question and trying to find the area of a trapezoid.
- First, you need the understand the question.
- Then, you should see what do you have and what is missing. In order to find the area of a trapezoid, you need a height and length of 2 bases. If one of them is missing, you have to find it.
- So your purpose has to be finding the missing part. You can not find the area directly if you don’t go step by step.
If your love is giving you an attitude because of last night, you should not just say “I love you, let’s go drink some coffee.” Of course, he/she will not come with you. Where are the flowers? Jumping to solutions before reflecting on the problem will lead to frustration. You have to find the missing part first.
As you can see the answer to “Why am I learning this?” is not about heavy formulas or soft math skills or daily math calculations. Because you already start off the day with simple math problems while you are calculating how many more minutes you can sleep even if you do not realize that you are doing the math. My point is more profound and I am talking about being rational and saving our little world. I am talking about how you get the right information all the time on Google, why you should adopt a cat, should you quit your job, is that person really will be your love until you die, why your electric bill is too high?
Finally, when will you use tangent or derivatives? I really don’t know. And it is not the point. The point is how you should approach a problem. By the way, you are not learning math to go to a college.