As a math teacher, I usually get the question, “When will I ever need to use this?” from several students throughout the course of the year.
While I could easily rattle off various situations in which mathematics can be applied in daily life (comparing prices at the store, building/fixing things around the house, calculating monthly payments or interest rates on loans, filing your taxes, etc.) the reality is that for many of my students, they may end up choosing careers or completing daily activities that surprisingly do not involve writing and solving equations, taking derivatives, using the quadratic formula, or graphing functions!
Unless my students end up pursuing careers in a math-related field, they really may not use the mathematical formulas or concepts I teach on a daily basis, and it would by silly of my to try and convince them otherwise!
Now please don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that the mathematics I am teaching is useless, otherwise I would seriously be questioning my career choice! Looking back at my high school education, I could easily say that I don’t use much of the facts I learned in my science, literature, or history classes either.
I can’t tell you that since high school I have ever needed to identify themes or motifs when I read a novel, described the process of photosynthesis to someone I met, or rattled off the exact dates and outcomes of various battles in the Civil War. However, I do not regret, nor question, what I learned in these classes. The goal for these courses, wasn’t simply to have students memorize facts and figures to be used is some far-distant future, but to help us become well-rounded people who better understand and can communicate with the world around us. This too is my goal when teaching mathematics.
After taking my class, my goal is not for students to be able to just spout off random memorized facts and equations, which would indeed be useless in many circumstances, but for them to have a better grasp on how to problem solve and work at a task even when things seem tough.
For some of my students who really struggle with mathematics and may have no plans in the future of pursuing a math-related career, I hope that they learn the importance of a strong work ethic, perseverance, attention to detail, and problem solving skills, just to mention a few.
Hopefully if my students are able to put in the hard work and find success, they can apply this same work ethic and problem-solving strategies in any future problems they face.
I hope that through mathematics, I can also help foster curiosity and a love for learning about our beautiful creation. I hope that I would stretch my students beyond what they may even have thought possible for themselves, so they can go on to set high goals for themselves and use their God-given strengths and abilities to serve those around them and better our community.
If you are a student who struggles with mathematics (or any particular subject for that matter), or happen to know someone who does, please be encouraged that there truly is a reason and a purpose behind what you are learning, whether it is the concepts you will carry with you or more importantly the life skills you may learn along the way!