Math- What Is It Good For

Math- What Is It Good For. It reminds me of Edwin Starr singing War. I suppose that I could write a good parody of this using math as the topic but I am not that motivated.

In school I found math to be less than interesting. It could be because I reached a point at which it became relatively hard and the struggle to keep up impacted my desire to learn or it could be because some of my math teachers were less than stellar.

I suspect that it was a combination of the two. I wasn't the best student but I wasn't horrible either. Early on I figured out how to job the session or in plain English I was smart enough to be able get by with relatively little studying. Most the courses were easy and unless I was really challenged I coasted.

It was a mistake but that is part of growing up, learning from your mistakes that is. The ease with which most of my courses came to me was not useful for math because I found that I couldn't coast and it irked me. My fragile male ego was bruised by this and in conjunction with some instructors who were less than dynamic I found those classes to be difficult.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. It is easy to look back at our mistakes and say that given the same scenario we would have handled things differently but I am honest enough to say that if I had to do it all over again I would still struggle. But I can also say that my struggles would be different.

One of the things that is very important to me is that my children not struggle in the same way. I can't say what kind of math ability they will receive. I got an 'A' in Algebra and muddled my way through Geometry and Algebra II receiving a 'C' in those courses. Had I had more motivation I could have done better, but I didn't and here I sit now.

My children have two uncles who can provide solid examples of what math can do for you. One is an astrophysicist and the other and MD. They both love math and find it very simple to provide real world examples of the benefits of math and that is a key area.

Had someone really spoken to me about the ways in which math could make life easier I would have most likely paid closer attention, or maybe not. What I know now is that I can get by the rough spots and to do fairly well with everything else


stc said...

I find I get by just fine with only a few basic math skills. But it's certainly true that excelling at the higher maths opens up some very lucrative career options.

When I look back at my school career, there are other subjects where I wish I had made more of an effort — geography and history among them. Like you, I tended to coast whenever possible.

Stacey said...

Practical uses for math abound. The mysteries of the universe could not be unlocked without it.

I have a degree in math and I have done much tutoring and I can honestly say that people either love math or hate it. They just get it or they don't.

I have loved math since an early age and have always laughed when people ask "What good is math?" Sounds like sour grapes to me.

Daled Amos said...

I got into Algebra because of the Bill Cosby show--not the one in the 80's but the show he had years earlier where he played a gym teacher (you mean you never saw it?).

In one episode he had to sub for an Algebra teacher...Because of the show I got interested in linear equations.

One day the teacher caught me passing notes in class and was surprised to see they were Algebra problems. She was impressed, and suggested to my father to teach me Probability.

I hated it, got turned off to Math and that was the end of that.

Math can teach you to appreciate a certain way of thinking. In my experience, I got it...and then I didn't.

Jack Steiner said...


I know what you mean.


Alright math girl, rub it in. ;)


That sounds familiar.

Anonymous said...

Not surprisingly, I second Stacey. But I do think that people can be taught an appreciation for math. I tutored (all kinds of math) in high school and taught calculus in college, and every now and then one of my students would say, "Oh! I see why you like this! Why doesn't anybody else teach it this way?"

Jack Steiner said...

Hi AL,

A good teacher makes all the difference. That gives me an idea, maybe we'll start an internet web show and you and Stacey can teach math online.

I'll handle the marketing aspect of it. ;)

Hope you are having a good Chanukah.

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