>Fruthermore, they (students) don't appear to ask the same question >about PE, music, arts, etc. Should they study music? Most definitely. >Should the music educators be concerned about how to answer the question, >"When am I ever going to use this stuff?"?
I think that students don't ask when they will ever use PE or art because they see these subjects very clearly outside the classroom. They don't have parents telling them, "I have never used the stuff I learned in PE." I have heard students ask when they were going to use the stuff they learned in music when the teacher is trying to teach about musical instruments or notes. Only those who have a real affinity for music don't care that they may never use the information.
I think it is very important that we, as teachers, make math more visible. So much math is done behind the scenes. As students walk down a street in their neighborhood, they do not realize that everything they see (practically) contains an element of math. But they see people playing in the park, they hear music, they learn about all the advancements being made in the area of science that will make their lives better. But they do not read articles about the great work mathematicians are doing that will contribute to a better world. They don't see on the news that Pi became the hero of the day. Math is mysterious. It is not as tangible as other subjects. And the ability is see math at work is not a given. Students need us to be their glasses and help them see.