Why learn math?
I imagine most math students have asked this question at one point or another – most likely during times of complete frustration. Math can be difficult, and it can be hard to put in the effort when there doesn’t seem to be any practical use for solving quadratic equations, graphing tangent functions, or calculating derivatives.
The truth is, most people will never use these higher level math skills after finishing school. But the side benefits of learning math include a whole slew of skills that will be used every day, no matter what career you end up in. These are the skills involving how to figure things out. Problem solving skills. Logical thinking. Having the ability to break a problem down into simpler problems so that it can be solved.
These skills teach you how to think, and they train your brain to be sharp in any situation. While you’re in the thick of your math class, the goal may seem to be to do your homework and pass the tests. The true goal, the big picture, and one of the reasons mathematics is a required course, is to learn how to think.
Here’s an example – imagine you work in an office, and the printer stops working. People without problem solving skills may immediately pick up the phone and call an expensive repair person to come fix it. But a person who has learned problem solving skills may approach the problem with logic and determination, first analyzing the situation, locating the source of the problem, such as a paper jam, following the user manual’s steps for clearing the paper jam, and resetting the machine.
If you approach your math class with these goals in mind, then you’ll learn the material for understanding, because you’ll be truly figuring things out and making sense of the math. If you approach your class with the goal of getting a good grade on a test, you may memorize material that will indeed lead to an A, but the material you memorized will not make it into your long-term memory and there may be very little real understanding.
Everyone runs into problems of one kind or another, both in and out of work and school. These may not necessarily be math problems, but if you develop problem solving skills by working to master the material in math classes, and by learning how to learn and how to figure things out, it will make any future problem you run into much easier to manage.
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