From: Dean Sherman
To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Subject: The purpose of algebra
My grade 9 students have difficulty appreciating the usefulness of the Standard Form of the equation of a line, prompting them to ask "When are we ever going to need this?". This question used to really bother me, and I would look, as a result, for justification for everything I taught. Now I say, "Never. You will never use this." I then go on to remind them that people don't lift weights so that they will be prepared should, one day, someday knock them over on the street and lay a barbell across their chests. You lift weights so that you can knock over a defensive lineman, or carry your groceries or lift your grandchildren without being sore the next day. You do math exercises, so that you can improve your ability to think logically, so that you can be a better lawyer, doctor, architect, prison warden or parent. MATH IS MENTAL WEIGHT TRAINING. It is a means to an end, (for most people), not an end in itself.
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