## May 3, 2010 Why Do We Learn Math?!

So, today (right now actually) I was doing math homework, but then I decided that writing in my blog is probably a more fun way to spend my time. I’m terrible at math. If I do math problems for too long, my head will ache! Probably the reason I hate it. If I had created education, I would’ve made math only mandatory until middle school.. because honestly, why do we learn math in high school?

Math in middle school is necessary. Up until Algebra I, I can tolerate. I can think of situations where maybe I would have to use that in my daily life. **Maybe**. But really, as a freshman in high school, studying Geometry, I can’t think of ONE way to use these skills I am learning in my daily life.

I mean, if you are one of those really cool math people who grow up to be engineers or architects, these skills would probably come in handy. But for me, those really dumb people who hate math, when am I going to ever use these skills? When will I ever have to know how to find the arc length of a circle using an inscribed angle? When will I ever have to know how to graph a circle graph?

I’ll answer those questions for you! * Never.* I also feel the same way for other high school math classes like calculous or physics. Unless you are going/considering a career closely related to high-level math, then really. I feel like it’s all unnecessary. Honestly, the only valuable skills I have learned in math is probably addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

As more experienced individuals, what do you guys think? Do I really need all these math skills in every day life?

- 20 comments
- Posted under Ramblings

## Permalink # atomicgator said

I agree 100% I was one of those students who would do just enough in class to get by, B’s mostly some C’s too. Point was, social life and free time were big to me. I always felt like I could skate through any class without much effort however when I got into higher maths’ I got in trouble. I hated math for one reason, it penalized people like me. Math builds on itself everyday, have to learn this step to do the next step and so on etc.. Well, I would check out in math as usual but when I tried to cram for tests or exams it was soooo hard because you have to go back and try and learn each step as it builds on each other. Anyway, long story short, I hate math because of that. Thus, I was not good at math. 🙂 I have a calculator and half a brain so I’ve found out that I didn’t need that shit anyway…

Nice post, I agree whole completely, math sucks

~Rich

## Permalink # suyeonb13 said

I thought I was the only one!! Good thing somebody actually agrees with me. I just bombed my last math quiz, probably one of the reasons I wrote this bitter post. The logical side of my head just doesn’t work!

## Permalink # pwesty said

Being a middle schooler, I can’t see from your point of view EXACTLY, but I agree with you for the most part. Although it’s a bit of an exaggeration that math is only necessary in middle and elementary school, it’s definitely true that some things we learn are not needed. A perfect example is right here.

http://toasterstoasttoast.deviantart.com/art/Geometry-Applied-to-Real-Life-160090476

## Permalink # suyeonb13 said

Haha thanks for sharing the comic! I hope you are studying math very carefully now… then in the future you won’t have to struggle… Like me.

## Permalink # mirellamccracken said

After 24 years of finishing school I still ask myself the same question, Why did we study Math?

I have no idea!!!

I think when they decided to teach math they haven’t yet created calculators and internet…

I think if they think twice about it now they will stop teaching Math.

…and Rich me too, I was a bad Math student…hardly could get the average grades.

Mirella

## Permalink # Venice said

This is so true… most of us study math to pass the examination!

I am very tired of studying math.

Thanks!

## Permalink # contemplativemoorings said

Mathematics does get it wrong in focusing so much on calculation…you’re right that most people will never use the Pythagorean Theorem in their daily life…However, Algebra and other higher math are very strong examples of a perfectly logic system…learning their logic can help us think more clearly in other situations where logical decision-making is applicable…

I will add also that I came up with a simple way of calculating WA state sales tax which is 8.9% using what I learned from Algebra…so I got that much from it besides…

## Permalink # mirellamccracken said

Ok after I wrote my comments, I regret it. I surely don’t want to set a bad example to young people early in life.

Math or not, everything you learn at school contribute in making you sharper, smarter and more successful.

Good luck!

Mirella

## Permalink # suyeonb13 said

Hahahah Thanks Mirella.

Thanks for pushing me towards a better education. I hope my education makes me sharper, smarter and more successful too!

## Permalink # scarletsculturegarden said

I was always really good at math without ever wanting to be – I tried really hard to do badly just so I wouldn’t have to sit through surds, trigonometry, simultaneous equations, and the rest of it in the high achievers class. Hated every minute of it – then I was free! Yay! I’ve never used any of the stuff I learned in math other than adding and substracting… maybe a bit of percentages…

## Permalink # suyeonb13 said

Good at math without wanting to be… You have a gift! Haha I’m jealous of you. I wish I had some of that in me. I’m glad to hear that you don’t use math anymore!

## Permalink # pienbiscuits said

Maths is definitely not my strong point, so I understand how you feel. You’ll find out in the fullness of time what is useful for

life, rather than what is useful forschool. You won’t be at school forever, so just do your best. It’ll be good enough.## Permalink # minjik13 said

HAHA I hate math too and I don’t get the reason why we learn math until the freshmen year of college!!!!!!

## Permalink # jamesk13 said

me too, i have ms. elia and although she is a great teacher,

her homework is very stressing at times..

i hate graphing..

btw, ur blogs get so much people. i envy you!

## Permalink # jamesk13 said

like no one’s interested in basketball…i guess

## Permalink # Nic said

Math is a cruel cruel subject!!

So is Statistics, for some reason I did a GCSE in it. One of THE most pointless qualifications I have. It has never been useful to me in the world of part-time work!! The only maths I have ever done is when the till broke. Maths is an archaic subject thanks to technology!

## Permalink # suyeonb13 said

I’m relieved to hear that! Sometimes I feel like math is going to be a HUGE part of my life that I can’t control. Hopefully, that won’t happen.

Thank you technology!

## Permalink # Alamanach said

contemplativemoorings is right about the benefits of learning to think logically; that’s the first benefit of a mathematics education I was going to point to. Possibly you believe you know how to think logically already. Actually, if you could, math wouldn’t be so hard. Perfectly objective, logical thinking is a little inhuman. At the same time, the ability to conceive and comprehend something like a geometric proof is unique to the human mind– no animal or machine can do it. (Read “Shadows of the Mind” by Roger Penrose for more on that topic.) Computers can be built that slavishly perform computations, but computers are incapable of appreciating what they are doing.

That ability to understand and appreciate can itself be the key to getting through any tough, dull school subject. Those geometrical formulas are of little personal interest to you– fair enough. If school requires that you learn them anyway, it can help to remember that some guy long ago was the first person to figure out whatever particular formula you happen to be studying right now, and that first person wasn’t doing it to please some teacher or boss or whatever. The first person to discover whatever formula you are looking at was somehow motivated by the formula itself. The guy who discovered how to find the arc length of a circle using an inscribed angle did it because he thought the problem was an interesting one. Was it useful to him? Probably not– but then how ~do~ you find that arc length? Somebody got curious and wanted to know.

You’ve got a human mind just like that guy. You can think any thought that he thought. If a certain question made him curious and it doesn’t make you curious, then his perspective on it must have been different from yours. If you can put yourself in his shoes, look at the problem as though you, like him, were the first person ever to do so, there’s a very good chance you can find the same intellectual curiosity that he did. Come at in this way, it’s not a question of whether we will use this information later, it’s a question of intellectual merit that is pursued for its own sake.

Now, I should warn you, there’s the potential for profound personal transformation here. Once you crack open a few theorems and understand– really, personally understand– what they are about, you might find that you like it. Or there may be some other subject that you approach from a position of plain intellectual curiosity that subsequently really grabs your interest. This can lead you down a path that turns you into a different, better person than you were before. I was one of the worst in my class at math through most of school, until I hit college and learned a bit of math history. As I learned where all these mathematical ideas had came from, I started approaching them a little differently and having much better success. (That’s the process I just described above.) I went on to take Calculus, and then Calculus II, and Calculus III, and Differential Equations, and Linear Algebra, and by then I was in engineering school with all the people who had been good at math all along.

While in engineering school I discovered a gap that none of my fellow students had noticed. We had to solve math problems all the time, and at least half these problems involved trigonometric functions (sine, cosine, etc.). Though we knew how to do all these problems by hand, we used scientific calculators on most of it. What I noticed was that none of us remembered– if we had ever known– how to actually calculate sines and cosines; we relied on the calculator to do it. Oh, we knew what those ratios represented, but how to find their values, if we had no calculator? “Hey, without using your calculator, what’s the sine of 17 degrees?” I asked the best and brightest, and none of us knew.

I tore through five academic libraries trying to find an answer, and coming up empty. Finally, in a pair of trigonometry books from the 1800s, I found sine and cosine formulas derived from the Taylor Series. Ironically, we’d all learned Taylor Series back in Calc III, and using it to find trig functions had even been a typical example in the textbooks. But Taylor Series as the way to calculate trig functions had been so lightly pedalled, we’d all long since forgotten about it. Research Taylor Series and you’ll learn quickly how to calculate sine and cosine. Research sine and cosine, and you most likely will never get anywhere near Taylor Series. It’s a weird quirk in the textbooks these days. I found my answer because I was coming at the question out of intellectual curiosity. My career-minded fellow students never even thought to ask the question.

Now, what you suspect is true– you will not need to solve geometry problems on a daily basis. What you will need is to think, and question, and reason. This transformative process of learning to look at a math problem for its own sake will have a massive and positive impact that will be with you every day, and will be something you do use. Like contemplativemoorings said, there is a little too much emphasis on dumb calculation these days (though calculation is necessary). Look at mathematics within the larger context of human history and intellectual discovery, and a new, incredible world will open up for you.These classes you are taking are definitely worth your effort.

## Permalink # suyeonb13 said

I have thought about this for a while, and I see what you’re saying. The logic that we have to use in everyday life may have been learned through math/Geometry, but I feel like actually developing the logic that gets us through life is formed through experiences throughout our lives. Going through various steps of complicated formulas and theorems won’t help me solve the problems in my life. I’m just more confused afterwards. Like I said, I’m not one of those “math” people.

Thanks for your comment. I like your view on math, it’s interesting! Thinking that nobody else has thought of this theorem yet and so trying to prove it, just because you’re curious! it’s actually similar to how my math teacher is trying to teach us. Tomorrow when I go to math class (for a test) I’ll keep your advice in mind, but i’m not sure if that’s enough to change my mind on the subject. I just have this dislike for math. Haha.

## Permalink # Shmarah said

YOU’RE AMAZING. I REALLY LIKE YOU!♥

I absolutely ABHOR math… Sometimes teachers can go on and on about things you already know about. For example, that fancy X thingy in the picture is what we’re learning now, just way more advance. My math teacher even said, we’re learning the same things we learned last year and the year before, just adding more things each time.Which I find boring.

But really, when WILL we need to know this stuff?! If we’re captured by a madman with an obsession for math, maybe THEN some of this will come in handy! I think they try to make it seem useful with word problems, like “Sue plays the triangle. She knows two of the angles are 30 degrees, so what kind of triangle is it?”

But why would Sue only want to figure out two angles? Why didn’t she just MEASURE the third? WHY DOES SHE EVEN CARE!?

Well, that was some good rambling. YOU’RE AWESOME!♥