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Q&A #1739

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Purpose of studying algebra

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From: E A H <ehensel@charter.net>
To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2006101116:49:42
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: : Purpose of studying algebra

It seems to me that Mathematics, including, but not limited to Algebra
is a form of communication.

I think many people would be surprised to hear a student ask why do we
need to read and write? 

The answer would be obvious, it allows us to communicate over space
and time with one another. We don't justify the ability to read and
write by listing all the things we can do with reading and writing.  

If I were an Algebra teacher, and I needed to tell a child why they
will need to know this, I would make sure that understoodnd that this
is a form of communication.  Once they accepted that notion, I would
say that "It my hope as someone who cares about you, that you would
not choose to be ignorant of a form of communication simply because
you do not have an immediate need for it. If you would, I urge you to
seriously re-think that choice.  If you have done all you wish in life
at 13 or 14 years old you should probably not bother, otherwise please
don't limit your choices beause you were too lazy or too scared to try
something."      

As far as why to learn a specific topic, such as Why do I need to know
how to graph a line?  It would seem to me to be analagous to finding
fault with knowing a certain vocabulary word.  When will I need to use
the word vicious, or bedraggled? I suppose you could make a case for
why we don't need to know most idividual words or phrases, we could
probably get by with a very small core of words.  Increasing our
vocabulary, increases our potential level of communicating, whether we
choose to take advantage of it is up to us.    

I would then show them a situation which required Algebra to
communicate an idea, perhaps one slightly too difficult for them to
solve.

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