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Q&A #1739

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Purpose of studying algebra

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From: RON

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2003060322:51:12
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Purpose of studying algebra

I FIND IT INTERESTING THAT YOU ASK A SOMEWHAT PHILOSOPHICAL QUESTION, GET BASICALLY PRAGMATIC RESPONSES, THEN TAKE OFFENSE AT THE RESPONDERS BY QUOTING WHAT YOU BELIEVE TO BE "THE ANSWER" THAT THEY DID NOT SUPPLY. THE OVERALL ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION SEEMS TO BE "IT DEPENDS". FOR SOME, THE STUDY OF ALGEBRA IS A COMPLETE WASTE OF THEIR LIMITED TIME ON EARTH. FOR OTHERS, THE STUDY OF ALGEBRA WILL OPEN INDIVIDUALLY IMPORTANT DOORS FOR THEM THAT WOULD OTHERWISE REMAIN CLOSED. FOR MOST, THE VALUE OF THE STUDY OF ALGEBRA LIES SOMEWHERE BETWEEN THE TWO EXTREMES. AS WITH ANY DISCIPLINE, MATHEMATICS CAN PROVIDE AN EDGE IN THE SURVIVAL GAME. IF THE GOAL IS TO EXTEND ONE'S LIFE, THEN THE ABILITY TO REASON LOGICALLY WILL USUALLY PROVE TO BE HELPFUL. AFTER ALL, IT IS OUR BRAIN POWER, NOT OUR PHYSICAL PROWESS, THAT HAS LED TO OUR DOMINANCE OF THE PLANET. IF QUALITY OF LIFE IS THE GOAL, WHATEVER THAT MEANS TO AN INDIVIDUAL, THEN THERE ARE NUMEROUS EXAMPLES OF "FAMOUS" PEOPLE WHO LIVED LIVES ENVIED BY MANY BUT WHO ON THEIR BEST DAY COULDN'T FIGHT THEIR WAY OUT OF A SIMPLE ADDITION OF FRACTIONS PROBLEM. ON THE OTHER HAND THERE ARE NUMEROUS EXAMPLES OF "FAMOUS" PEOPLE WHO WERE DRIVEN INSANE OR TO DO PERSONALLY UNSOUND DEEDS BECAUSE THEY COULDN'T SOLVE EXTRAORDINARILY COMPLEX ABSTRACT PROBLEMS. IN ANY CASE, THE ORIGINAL QUESTION SEEMS TO BE AIMED AT A JUSTIFICATION FOR PLACATING TEENAGE CHILDREN. THAT SEEMS TO FALL UPON THE PARENTS OF THE OFFSPRING. WHATEVER THE CHILDREN AND THEIR PEERS MAY THINK INDEPENDENTLY, A DEGREE OF TRUST IN SUPPLYING WORTHWHILE ACTIVITIES MUST BE INSTILLED, ASSUMING THAT THE PARENTS ARE WORTHY OF THAT TRUST. IF THEY ARE NOT WORTHY OF THAT TRUST, THEN PERHAPS THAT IS NATURE'S WAY OF THINNING THE HERD. MOST OF THE CURRICULUM IN PUBLIC EDUCATION IN THE U.S. HAS PROVEN TO BE WORTHY OF SPENDING SOME TIME FOR WHAT MOST PEOPLE DEEM TO BE "A SUCCESSFUL LIFE". THE AMOUNT OF TIME AND EFFORT SPENT ON INDIVIDUAL ITEMS ( SUCH AS MATHEMATICS ) WILL PRODUCE VARYING RESULTS FOR INDIVIDUAL STUDENTS. IF THE STUDENTS IN QUESTION ARE ON THE FRINGES OF EITHER END OF THE BELL CURVE, HOWEVER, THEN PUBLIC EDUCATION IS PROBABLY NOT FOR THEM. ONE MUST THINK OF PUBLIC EDUCATION AS BASICALLY UTILITARIAN IN NATURE. WHILE MEETING INDIVIDUAL NEEDS IS OFTEN PREACHED, THE BASIC PRACTICE IS ASSEMBLY LINE IN NATURE.

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