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Why Study Practical Geometry?

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Date: 04/26/97 at 11:03:25
From: K. Superko
Subject: Secondary Math Practical Geometry

I am currently student teaching and my one section of Practical
Geometry (a group of 11th and 12th graders) finds no use at all for
the information that we are talking about. I have been stressing that
Geometry is everywhere and that they may someday use it in their
lives. I have had them do hands on activities to discover theorems in
the class, I have them do scavenger hunts in and outside of the
classroom to see that Geometry is everywhere, but they do not see
this. What can I do to help them to see just how important Geometry
and all Math is?
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Date: 04/26/97 at 12:21:58
From: Doctor Sarah
Subject: Re: Secondary Math Practical Geometry

Hi there -

Well, we get questions regularly from people who are not able to solve
problems they have about finding the amount of liquid left in a tank
lying on its side, or how to cut carpet, or how to make a cone out of
a rectangle, and we've catalogued them in the Practical Geometry
section of our Dr. Math archives at

http://mathforum.org/dr.math/tocs/practicalgeom.high.html

of 11th and 12th graders thinks you have a crystal ball.  :-)  Given
the speed of change in technology and the exponentially increasing
need for mathematics in the workforce at all levels, from student
teachers to machine toolmakers to people working with anything having
to do with computers, to... it's pretty difficult to predict all the
ways in which your students will profit from a good grounding in
geometry and other math.  That's a big part of the excitement in
learning right now - we just don't know!

And then on another level, we are now hearing about the building of
neural pathways in the brain, and the improvement in thinking
generally that learning things like math brings to human beings, so
when you learn math you're learning how to think about other things as
well as how pi is calculated.  We all need to have a better
understanding of how the world works, probability, statistics, etc.,
to be able to sort through all the messages that come at us through
the media.

Nevertheless, students keep asking and math teachers think they have
our Dr. Math FAQ we've put together some items that might help you

http://mathforum.org/dr.math/faq

and look toward the bottom of the page for "Why study math?"

You yourself might be interested in a discussion called "Why trig?"
which we highlighted in the April 14 number of our electronic
newsletter, the Math Forum Internet News - back issues and information
on subscribing are at

This conversation about why people might want to study trigonometry
took place recently on the math-teach mailing list. Here's how we

WHY TRIG?  A MATH-TEACH DISCUSSION

http://mathforum.org/kb/message.jspa?messageID=1461236

You are teaching a group of skeptical high school
students trigonometry and they want to know
"Why do we learn Trigonometry?"
- Sharon Hessney

Responses to this question ranged from concrete examples of
how trig is used to conversations about the validity and
utility of the question as stated. Below are a few
excerpts, and we encourage you to read the full discussion.

Trig is easy to defend! Any physical situation where
two actors don't meet at right angles or are parallel
requires trig. This includes virtually any realistic
mechanics problem (cars on hills, the trajectory of a
baseball or rocket, bridge design, road design, TV
picture tube design, etc.) and many optics problems...
Taken a step further, understanding many kinds of
motion and vibration (sound, light "waves,"...)
Now, try defending integration by parts...
- Tim Corica, The Peddie School

Why is it that questions from students about different
bits of math cause so much agitation among teachers?
I wonder how often English teachers get "why should we
study Shakespeare?" ...I suspect their answer is that
people without passing knowledge of old Will are
ignorant...           - GYanos

I think it is because there is a strong feeling that
since there are some uses for mathematics, the study
of mathematics needs to be justified in terms of its
usefulness... [but what about] history or music or
literature. Are teachers of those subjects providing
their students with job skills?
- Jack Roach

\|/

The Math Forum's gateway to these and other recommended math
and education discussions, with directions for subscribing to
mailing lists, can be found at:

http://mathforum.org/kb/

Good luck with your students.  Maybe they should be telling YOU why
math will be important - at least to 21st century society generally,
if not to each of them in particular.  :-)

-Doctor Sarah,  The Math Forum
Check out our web site!  http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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