Whitefield Academy Blog

I Will Never Use Algebra in Real Life

by | Sep 19, 2019 | Classical Christian, Education, Middle School, Private Schools, The Classroom | 24 comments

“I will never use this in real life,” says almost every exasperated junior high Algebra student. The hours of solving algebra problems. The random letters. The complex terminology: factors, commutative, quadratic and rooster form. The bizarre word problems about how long it takes Superman and Iron Man to fly and crash into each other from 100 miles away given different speeds and different starting times. All of these add to a student’s perspective that the information they are learning in my class is irrelevant to their everyday life. So how do I convince a junior high student just how relevant algebra is?

The secret and genius behind algebra is best explained through its own history. Algebra (الجبر, al-jabr) means “the reunion of broken parts.” The word comes to us from 9th century Persian mathematician, Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī, from his book The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing. The study of algebra evolved over several stages into the modern symbolic algebra we see today. Algebraic problems were first treated as full sentences void of the symbolic x’s and y’s currently used. For example, 7x +1 = 22 would have been stated, “Seven times the thing plus one is twenty two.” By putting this algebraic equation into an English sentence we move from math-oriented thinking to logic-oriented thinking. Algebra, I believe, is better looked at as an exercise in logic not necessarily in math. We don’t intuitively recognize it to be this way because we developed our own formal logic in the west independent of algebra and limited algebra to strictly mathematical problem-solving.

An eighth grader recently told me that she didn’t need algebra in the real world because she was going to operate a dance studio when she grew up. She claimed that teaching dance only required an eight count therefore she needed no advanced math. In one simple question I was able to show that she would have to think algebraically.

“How are you going to make money?”

For her to answer this question, she would have to calculate how much to charge each student and how many students she would need to cover costs as well as to turn a profit. She would also need to figure out how many classes to have, when to be open, and how to arrange those classes. All of this requires algebra. 

We are not logical thinkers by nature. This is a faculty we must develop. Most of life’s decision-making is, in fact, algebraic. From balancing our finances, calculating taxes, and scheduling our family’s daily activities to planning vacations or mowing the lawn (How much of your lawn can you mow on one gas tank?), we use algebra. We think we can mow the lawn on a half a tank of gas, but can we really? Often we make decisions we feel are right and then we often prove ourselves wrong. By looking at algebra as a discipline in logic we immediately see its application and usefulness in our everyday life. The problems we interact with are, in fact, solvable. When we don’t develop and value what algebra brings to us, we make emotional decisions. 

Algebra shows us that much of the world is deterministic and not arbitrary. God is a God of order therefore we should expect to find consistency and repeatability in nature. When we choose to live according to His law, we are essentially admitting that He is Creator God and aligning ourselves with how His creation works. As we live submerged in God’s law, we can have success (Joshua 1:8). Algebra is a beautiful window into God’s consistency and order and is not only seen but used in every day of “real life.”

 

24 Comments

  1. Jim Clark

    Thank you for this perspective on algebra. I’ve always told myself I wasn’t good at math or I would blame my teachers. Both are wrong in hindsight and this perspective helped me understand that.

    Reply
    • Itzarel Bedolla

      I’m not the best at math and I would tell myself the same things but now I’m trying my best to understand it because I know math is important and needed in real life.

      Reply
      • Nilesh Pal

        I am alright mathematics.
        But I am always confused where all these things are used in day to days life.
        I know the value of maths but also now understand how to use it.

        Reply
    • Emir

      Jim I agree with you, I am alright at math but I would always question when I would actually use this in the real world.

      Reply
      • M.J

        I am a high school math teacher. I have answered the question in a multiple of ways. I have even went as far as telling them that if they felt as strongly as they sound, they should contact the State Department of Education and voice their opinion/grievances. I teach according to State guidelines.

        Reply
    • Sarai Corona

      I am so glad that I was fortunate enough to come across this article, t has really helped me to see math from a different perspective.

      Reply
    • Jesus Valenzuela

      I’ve had trouble remembering lessons and would think it was not my fault. As I got older I started to be able to understand what the teacher was saying, and I would keep that remember the lesson. I also doubted why we would need this in the real world, but this gave me a whole different perspective on math.

      Reply
    • Arturo Saldana

      I’m not the best at math either, but this really article really helps me and gives a whole different perspective on math and why we study and learn it.

      Reply
    • Modesto Navarrete

      Jim I agree I am ok at math but I would always question when I would actually use this in the real world.For example some problems I think I will never use them in the real world.But know since I read this article I see how we will always use math in the real world

      Reply
    • josiah jones

      I agree with you because perspective matter a lot because not everybody learns the same way and teacher do matter because they give you that perspective.

      Reply
  2. Kristin Riggs

    Yes thank you Mr Castro…I wasn’t very found of math either and use it today almost everyday in my field of being a Cardiovascular Sonographer. I remember saying those same words to my parents and even the teacher. I grew to love math especially in college and then after realizing that God is The Ultimate Mathematician🤗🙏🏻

    Reply
    • jizelle briceno

      I hope one day i grow up to love and enjoy math the way you guys do.Right now i find math very difficult for me. But its just the beginning and i will learn alot.

      Reply
    • Damian Casillas

      I’m in 8th grade right now but reading this helped me understand why I will need algebra in my future. I always told my teachers that i wont need it. Reading this made me understand why i’m going to need.

      Reply
    • vanity santos

      I’m still young and I don’t expect myself to be a god at math but I sure do expect myself to be more positive and for myself to grow. I always ignored the fact that teachers said math is in important and we would need it in the future. After reading this article , I now know why it was so important. Thank you.

      Reply
    • Ari

      I am currently in 8th grade and I personally thought we would not be using algebra in the things we do, but after reading this article I now know that we use math in our day to day lives, like you do calculations for rent or for the cost of a house. Math is a hard subject, but I will be trying my best everyday.

      Reply
  3. JAMES PERKINS

    I like Algebra when I was in high school. I use math and Algebra everyday as an Electrical Engineer. I love it when I can come up with an algorithm to describe a problem and its solution. One good one for your students is to solve with an equation how to go to a wider tire for a car and still keep the same overall diameter using the data supplied on the tire itself. One can calculate the new tire size and get very close to the same diameter of tire to keep the car’s speedometer accurate.

    Reply
  4. Geetha

    I’m now 71 years and I’m teaching algebra to my grand daughter studying g in 5grade. I hv not learnt before and I knew only the basic. I go thru lessons in google videos and she does 8grade algebra which I’m able to solve. Very interesting and now I regret why I didn’t do it earlier. But now I’m enjoying.

    Reply
  5. Cristian Hernandez

    I am still a middle schooler and i said those words in 6th and 7th grade. While working with my dad he uses measurements and numbers. In my head i said ” i need math”. Now i’m gonna start more effort in math as i can.

    Reply
  6. Michael Rodriguez

    I would love to, learn more math but i’m a slow learner and the other bad part my teacher is a very fast past teacher which i get stressed and just quit but i hope i get there some day living a good life in God’s word.

    Reply
  7. Dayani Radilla

    I’m not the best at Math but this artical showed me that algebra is important and how I will need it in my future.It showed me to put things in different point of view

    Reply
    • Kate

      I tell my students that math creates pathways in our brains. when we learn new math and see new patterns, how things for together, it creates a new pathway to help us connect similar patterns together. When we are presented with new problems in life, it becomes easier to logic our way through to the solution because math teaches us how to find new perspectives and see solutions we wouldn’t have seen without the math training.

      Reply
  8. Cynthia Wright

    I am a 8th Grade Math teacher at Academy of Math & Science at Camelback in Arizona. I used this wonderful article for a class discussion on my Schoology dashboard. The students really were enlightened and appreciated the benefits of this Article; “I will never need Algebra in real life”.

    Thank you

    Reply
  9. vanity santos

    I wouldn’t say I was the best at math. It takes awhile for me to process everything and get it fully through my head. After reading this article, I now know that algebra is something that’ll be helpful in the future. It surprising how people love math. One day I have faith in myself for not being the best but being good in math.

    Reply
  10. andrew

    i agree because i need to learn to make money

    Reply

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