Q&A #1739

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Purpose of studying algebra

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From: Rob Eckert

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2004012613:00:29
Subject: Re: Re: Purpose of Algebra

Hi Kait! I just thought that I would tell you a little bit the math that I use. I am a structural engineer, and am now in University learning to becaome a math teacher. The math that I most often used as an engineer included algebra, trigonometry and sometimes calculus. As an engineer I often had to solve problems, so those word problems that you see in your math class are good practice for the real world. Often times though, the problems that I saw didn't always have a clear question or clearly defined variables or knowns. The problems could be solved in many different ways, and the solutions that one engineer comes up with may be quite different than what another one comes up with. Usually there are many solutions that are useful and "correct", and a good engineer will come up with a number of different solutions for his client. The client or customer who originally hires the engineer to solve the problem then must make some decision which solution to use. Then the engineer will try to help with the decision, by providing some estimate of which choice might be the least expensive or easiest to use. Math is used all the time as an engineer. Sometimes its simple arithmetic, sometimes its algebra and sometimes its calculus. As a new teacher I would be interested in seeing what your report had to say about math and its usefulness. I hope that I was able to give you an idea how an engineer might use math and the types of math that an eningeer might use. Rob

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