Math: useless or not?

Marguerite Holes and Mr. Lindow give their views on math's benefits and purpose in everyday life.

May 3, 2019


Mr. Lindow’s calculation

“When will I ever have to use this?”  is a question I asked my teachers many times back in my student days.  Partially I was challenging my teachers, but mostly I really wanted to know.  What I didn’t realize at the time was that the answer to the question was more complex than I was ready to handle.

As an 8th grade math teacher, I have an easy time answering the “When will…” question.  All topics can be used in future science, math, tech, or business classes. Many of our topics can be used in adult everyday living.

More and more employers in the US are hiring workers from other countries that have stronger math backgrounds than our own graduates”

The topics learned in higher level math classes help CFHS prepare students for a technology driven world.  More and more employers in the US are hiring workers from other countries that have stronger math backgrounds than our own graduates.

The thought processes used in problem solving can be used in the “real world”.  We may need to solve problems like keys locked in a car, clean up after a tornado, preparing for a river that is rising to flood level, how much fertilizer to purchase for our lawn, and many more.  Since we are not able to teach problem solving for every life situation, we try to help students develop a thought process that can be used in any of those situations. I recall when an attorney was asked, ‘What was the most important class you took in high school to prepare for your law career?”  He answered, “Math”. He probably didn’t factor binomials, determine any derivatives, or solve a system of inequalities, but the thought processes that were being fostered in high school math helped him analyze and develop strategies for his cases.

When I was young, my dad taught me how to use a hand saw to cut wood.  As I got older, he taught me how to use an electric circular saw. I could have continued to get through life and complete wood projects with the hand saw, however, I chose to use the electric version.  This transition was a significant upgrade in terms of accuracy and efficiency. The same could be said for many things we learn in high school. If we have tools such as upper level math in our tool box, we have a chance to use them.  Those tools can be used to flourish instead of merely survive, allowing us to come alive and make a positive impact on the world.

In addition to the subject matter CFHS students learn, I hope they are learning traits such as discipline, determination, curiosity, problem solving, and communication.  Citizens who possess those characteristics make a positive contribution to society.

Marguerite’s problem

When thinking about things that are necessary for everyday life, math usually doesn’t cross the mind, and if it does, it probably comes right along with the word ‘money’. Finances are probably one of the only reasons that a person would use what is taught to them in their high school math classes. Other than that, the information forced into the minds of high school students these days is completely useless to them in the future. It won’t help them become employed and it can cause a lot of stress in their lives.

         Everybody obviously needs to know how to do the basic operations in math, but factoring a polynomial is probably the last thing somebody needs to know. It’s not like somebody is going to need to factor a polynomial to find out the speed limit on a road. That information is completely useless. Finding the parabola of a function is also something that is very unnecessary for everyday life. A parabola isn’t used to determine how much a ball curves or to find out how wide a car tire is, but that’s what the textbooks are saying. Once again, this information is useless.

         There are billions and billions of different jobs all over the world, and out of all of those jobs, about five of them require you to know the things taught to you in high school math, like an architect for example. If somebody wants to know how to solve a math problem, they can easily just look it up on the internet. If somebody wants to know what the quadratic formula is, they can look it up. If somebody doesn’t know how to find the zeros of a function, they can just look it up, but it is highly doubtful that anybody will ever be sitting at home while thinking to themselves, “Huh, I wonder what the rational zeros are of this function?” Most people wouldn’t do that for fun, because it is too stressful.

when complicated and frustrating work is added into the mix, it can cause a lot of stress”

It has been a proven fact that the math taught in high schools today causes an immense amount of stress in teenagers. High school students have to do so much homework while also studying to keep a good GPA throughout their high school career, but when complicated and frustrating work is added into the mix, it can cause a lot of stress. Stress can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke and it should not be taught any longer.

Math definitely doesn’t come to mind as useful when thinking about everyday life, in fact it’s probably the last thing on the list. High schoolers are forced to learn extremely useless information that is in no way helpful to one’s success in life. In fact, it causes them a lot of unneeded stress, which in some cases can lead to death. Is math really worth the those harmful affects?

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