Q&A #1739

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Purpose of studying algebra

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From: Jim Wysocki

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2000020101:17:12
Subject: Re: Purpose of studying algebra

Hear me out. I find it interesting that we need to provide
justification to the students about why a particular subject is
valuable. Apparently the idea that we study different subjects 1) for
the sake of knowledge and 2) for the mental discipline we gain are two

justifications that nobody accepts, thus we need to come up with
artificial applications and "real-world" connections about where we
use math. 

Realistically, if you are in an inner-city school there is no
justification for studying it that you can give students because they
see to many examples around them that prove you can survive in this
world without knowing the solution to "If x squared minus three times
x minus four equals zero, what is x?" At the same time, in a
well-to-do neighborhood, any "real-world" application will be shallow
at best as these students will see algebra as their stepping stone to
college... and that is all they need to know about it.

Be honest with your students. Why do we study algebra? Because it is a
foundational subject in mathematics that trains you to think and
reason in a logical and orderly manner. Will we be able to use this
stuff later? Sure, but that is not really the point here.

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