I'll Never Use This!

“When are we ever gonna use this?” is a question that makes teachers cringe with disbelief, especially if you teach math.
Besides the obvious, sarcastic answer of “You need it to get out of 7th grade.”, students are looking for some connection for why math is relevant to their life. Making connections between everyday life and math can be as simple as handling money for purchases, to a more difficult concept of graphing a baseball’s flight when it is struck by a bat. The first is easy to see, while the second may or may not interest a student. What kid doesn’t like money?
Math is used in all kinds of professions like hair stylists using percentages to get the right color combinations for the perfect blue; painters calculate the amount of paint needed to paint a room to a whole house; mechanics knowing nut and bolt sizes so they can get the right wrench/socket the first time; artists use geometric shapes in their creations, and musicians using rhythm (timing) to keep the right tempo. These are just a few professions where math is used and a daily and sometimes hourly basis.
In these cases, the math is simple. Some would argue why math, like Algebra 1 and beyond, is necessary if all I need to do is count or use a calculator. Granted, not everyone will need higher levels of math in their profession. However, the problem-solving presented in these math courses develops reasoning that can be useful in all types of situations where a solution is needed. Math teaches, hopefully, that there are different ways to solve a problem. That’s what I encourage in my teaching.
You can help your child by doing simple math at home like helping/teaching them to measure a room for new carpet/paint or developing a budget for saving money for that new game, bicycle, etc. Show them how to use a map (not a GPS) to plan a summer trip and determine how many miles and how long it will take.
Yes, you can really use math. Most of us won’t design the next skyscraper or plan a space mission, but we do use it more than we realize. It is relevant. Happy math-ing!

-Andrew Ramer, Math Instructor