Apr 222008

If you asked someone when you were growing up why you had to learn math, they probably told you something like, “You’ll use it someday”. That’s mostly a lie. For example, I still do use the algebra I learned back in grade 9 and 10. But much of the other stuff I learned I haven’t used, at least not yet. In fact, if it came up, I probably wouldn’t remember how to find the angle of a triangle using sine.

But, what they didn’t tell you is that the facts and knowledge about math is not what you’re really learning. What you’re doing is improving certain skills and thus improving your production capacity. Thus, you’re learning how to solve problems better and improving your spatial skills, as well as your general mathematical skills.

This point really struck home back in my first year economics class. The professor said that even though we wouldn’t be using anything beyond grade 10 math (graphs and simple line equations, etc), people who had taken calculus in university would do better. “That’s weird,” I thought, and it has to do with the problem solving abilities that are stimulated in both math and economics.

So, learn your maths, it’ll make you smarter and better at solving problems, even if the math itself you may never use.

  One Response to “Why You Have/Had to Learn Math”

  1. Totally agree!
    I was a math teacher for several years. I taught adults returning to education after several years of work. And one of the first things we did was drill them on math skills.

    I am still something of a critic about how the school system is set up, though. I think if they did treat it more like ‘practicing skills’, rather than gradient steps designed to separate out the calculus students from the rest, everyone’s attitude towards math might be more positive.

    Change is slowly happening in that part of education.

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