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Why Do I Have to Learn This?

Date: 05/03/2004 at 06:07:09
From: Smudge
Subject: Why/when will I use this in the real world?

I know that the roots of 

  6x^2 + 36x + 12 = 0

will come out as 

  x = -3 +/- sqrt(7)

But when in the real world would I use it?


Date: 05/03/2004 at 13:38:08
From: Doctor Ian
Subject: Re: Why/when will I use this in the real world?

Hi Smudge,

There's an excellent chance that you'll _never_ use it in the real 
world.  But that's not why you're being asked to learn it. 

So why _are_ you being asked to learn it?  Because there is a certain
kind of thinking that _is_ used in the real world, which involves
reducing complicated problems to simpler problems, and to still 
simpler problems, and so on, until you end up with a problem so simple
that you already know the answer, or can find it easily. 

It turns out that one of the (many) virtues of mathematics is that 
it's to set up problems that can be solved in this way, without 
getting bogged down in too much detail about the real world. 

Basically, when you reduce some complicated problem to an equivalent
problem that requires you to find the roots of a quadratic equation,
and then use the quadratic formula to find the roots of the equation,
you're getting practice at the very fundamental skill of successive
problem reduction.  If you master it, you can then apply it to any
other kind of problem that you might want to solve later in your life,
regardless of whether it has anything to do with mathematics. 

Does that make sense? 

- Doctor Ian, The Math Forum
  http://mathforum.org/dr.math/ 


Date: 05/03/2004 at 17:57:51
From: Smudge
Subject: Thank you 

Hi Dr. Ian.  

Point taken.  Thanks!

-Smudge
Associated Topics:
High School About Math
High School Basic Algebra

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