Why Do I Need to Study Math?
Date: 04/05/2007 at 03:40:52 From: Carla Subject: Why are quadratic equations imortant to real life?How? I am learning how to solve quadratic equations, graph quadratic equations and am also learning about complex numbers. Why are all of these concepts important to learn? How do they relate to real life? I am a high school student who is college bound, but I am not going into a major involving math, so why should I care?
Date: 04/05/2007 at 09:19:21 From: Doctor Peterson Subject: Re: Why are quadratic equations imortant to real life?How? Hi, Carla. Perhaps you shouldn't care! But I can suggest a couple reasons why it might still be worth having studied, even if you never touch a variable the rest of your life. First, let's turn the tables and ask the same question about another field. I DID go into a major involving math. My major did NOT involve literature. Yet I had to take courses in English, studying novels or short stories. Why should I have been made to do that? One answer is that one never knows where one might end up. Although literature was never one of my great loves, I have (in part because of interesting courses in which I had to write essays) developed a love of writing, which is one reason I'm a Math Doctor. I also enjoy reading with my kids, including some of the great books to which I was introduced in those courses. And maybe someone else in my position would have ended up writing a novel! Similarly, you might end up either getting hooked on some kind of math, or simply getting into a job where, like it or not, math is part of the territory. Even if you don't end up DOING math, you may need to be able to communicate effectively with those who do--or to decide whom to trust to do your math for you! Another answer is that it is good for all of us to be introduced to the great cultural achievements of our civilization. It gives us a fuller understanding of the ideas on which civilization is built. This is called "liberal education"--getting a generous helping (the literal meaning of "liberal") of general knowledge, rather than focusing on one small part of what is known. And math, including all the topics you mention, is one of the great achievements of culture. To take simple concepts like numbers and shapes, and turn them into a complex structure of provable facts including many complete surprises like the Pythagorean theorem or the existence of complex numbers, shows the power of creativity. Just knowing it's there broadens your horizons. Finally, studying a wide variety of subjects strengthens your mind. Just as athletes may do exercises that have little to do with the particular sport they are planning to participate in, just to help their bodies become strong and well balanced, much of what you learn in school is meant to strengthen all parts of your mind. Studying literature may have helped me in my mathematical studies by giving me different sorts of things to analyze intellectually, providing me with a broader set of experiences I can use in solving problems. Studying math may help you learn about various methods of solving problems, giving you insight into how to solve problems in the future that may not directly involve math, but may require some similar modes of thinking. Or maybe you'll just have more confidence, knowing you've been able to learn something hard, and therefore can do so again when you need to. If you have any further questions, feel free to write back. - Doctor Peterson, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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