Why Study Practical Geometry?
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?
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 That's one kind of answer. However, it's interesting that your group 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 to keep answering immediate questions about the utility of math. In our Dr. Math FAQ we've put together some items that might help you open a conversation about this with your students - see 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 http://mathforum.org/electronic.newsletter/ This conversation about why people might want to study trigonometry took place recently on the math-teach mailing list. Here's how we described it in the newsletter. 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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