Thursday, February 28, 2013

Everyday Math

I saw someone (I honestly don't remember who) post something on Facebook about how they've gotten through another day without using algebra. Setting aside the fact that anti-intellectualism is one of my biggest pet peeves, I think this is stupid.

When is the last time someone asked you to describe the structure of the American government? Or the meaning of the word "bicameral?" Or the names of the Supreme Court justices?

When have you ever - after you finished school - had to find the slope of a line? (Remember: rise over run!)

Do you still know the types of rock? (Sedimentary... igneous...) Where the faults are in the tectonic plates? Which era trilobites lived in?

What is the chemical formula for bleach? For ammonia? What is an ion?

Does anyone care today whether you know all the plot points of Romeo and Juliet or how to interpret the imagery in The Scarlet Letter? How about whether you have dangling participles? Do you even remember what that means?

If I could go on for hours, I could find something that you learned in high school or college that you have to use on a regular basis, and everything listed above is used by somebody in their daily life.

The thing about high school (and everything leading up to it) is that it's supposed to be similar for everybody, because you don't know yet what you want to do with your life. If they didn't teach algebra to everybody, then some people would not have the option to become astronauts, snipers, graphic designers, math teachers, or anything other profession that does require daily algebra.

If you were the type of student who didn't do well in algebra, then you probably asked at some point, "Why do we have to learn this?" And if you didn't do well in algebra, you probably didn't go into a profession where you use it daily, so you think you're so smart for recognizing that no, not everybody has to use algebra every day. But chances are pretty good that you use something else (history, English, health, home economics or family life or whatever they call it now) that others don't use daily.

So just be glad that some people paid attention in math class and still use that knowledge today... Otherwise you wouldn't have things like cars and smart phones and easy-to-read signs and buildings. Yes, all of those things require some form of math higher than basic arithmetic.

No comments:

Post a Comment