I love math, specifically algebra. I love it so much that in college my major was Mathematics. I love it so much that I teach it now. BUT, I know that most do not love it.
As a math teacher I hear one common phrase over and over. “When am I ever going to use this in real life?” The truth is: never. Well, not really never. There are some jobs where you will use math every single day. But the truth is you will very rarely have to solve for x. But, here’s the truth about algebra and real life.
You see, you may not get up in the morning and have to find the value of an unknown variable, but you will get up tomorrow and have some things that you have to do. Some of those things are things that you just do without having to think about it.
2 + x = 4
These things you just know how to solve, you may have had to learn them at one point; you may have had to count on your fingers in the beginning to get the answer, but now you just know the answer.
x = 2
Other days you will have to face things that take some time and energy do.
2x + 4 = -6
These things in your life require that you slow down and do a bit of thinking. You know how to get the answer; it may just take a few steps to get it solved.
2x = -6 – 4
2x = -10
x = -10/2
x = -5
Occasionally you will have some really tough things to do!
3(23 – 2x) + b = 50 – 2(x + 1)
On these days you may have to take LOTS of time to work through those problems. You may have to erase some things and start over a few times.
But here’s the beauty of math: When you slow down, think about the things that you have been taught, and put those things into practice one step at a time, you will get the RIGHT answer!
69 – 6x + x = 50 – 2x – 2
69 – 5x = 48 – 2x
-5x + 2x = 48 – 69
-3x = -21
x = 7
Doesn’t that feel great?!? To look at a problem – a hard problem, use the knowledge we have acquired and get a solution!
Isn’t that what life is really like? Every day we face things that require us to look at something, use the knowledge we have acquired and come up with a solution taking it one step at a time. And if we will do that, then we will get the right answer. Sometimes we will make mistakes. Sometimes we will have to erase the things we have been diligently working on. Sometimes we may have to rip up the whole blasted paper and throw it across the room. But if you will stay with it and keep working you will get the answer.
So while you may not sit at a desk with a pencil in hand working out equations for hours a day you are using the skills that have been poured into your brain since you were first taught that two plus two equals four. So the next time you hear, or think “When will I ever use this?!” You can answer using a quote from Albert Einstein:
“Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.”