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at what point in life will i use any of this stuff.

i just dont know what good this form of math is going to do for me in the world besides help me pass high school.


Can you be more specific about which form of math you are questioning? If you just mean math in general, there are countless practical reasons for improving your math skills, many involving money. Arithmetic is vital and algebra is really just a symbolic form of arithmetic. The most important math skill that you will use--assuming you aren't going into a science/medical/engineering field--is the ability to visualize a story problem (a real life situation) algebraically so it can be reduce to simple arithmetic.

If you could give a specific example, I'm sure someone can counter with an explanation of a practical use for that type of math. I know when I was a kid and asked, "What's the point of all this?" it only frustrated me further when I was given a pep talk about building character and what not. (The pep talks are all still true, but don't answer the fundamental question of what it all means.) What I wanted to know was, "How is this skill applied in the real world?" However, without knowing which specific skill you are asking about, we cannot be more specific in our answers.


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6 Answers

You've asked an excellent question.

If your teachers have not yet shown you how what you are learning is likely to be relevant to your life in the future, then it might be worth asking them directly - probably best done in office hours instead of putting them on the spot in the classroom. As educators, we each have our own reasons for believing what we are teaching is really worth learning.  In my classes, I focus a lot on helping make the learning activities and materials personally relevant for my students.  As a student, when I was taking a class I truly thought was a waste of time, I would figure out what I had to do minimally to make the grade I wanted so that at least I wouldn't see a drop in my GPA. 

I regularly advise my students to look hard at their options for instructors; get recommendations on who to take and who to avoid. The value of each of your courses is so dependent on how well an instructor's style and teaching methods work for you. For those in college, I highly recommend going to as many "first day of class" sessions as you possibly can during the first week of classes (even the full ones), looking for which instructors you think you could get the most value from.  Almost all the college instructors I know would do what they could to add students to their rosters if the students took initiative and showed up more than once.

I will also echo the statements others posted above - your education is what YOU make of it.  The more clear you are about your own life goals, the more easily you can see whether what you are learning can be relevant or not. One key is to look at whether skills you are learning will matter outside the class you are learning them in.  Math is often the most tricky - but you should be able to look at your goals and figure out which types of math are going to be the most important to put real effort into mastering.  I took AP Calculus in HS and more advanced math in college but have almost never used them.  What I wish I'd taken earlier was statistics - that is relevant every day. 

Let me know if you'd like to talk?

Very sincerely,

     ~ Dr. Mel 


Joseph from Forrest, Va.

When I was your age I thought exactly the same thing. I thought math was suppose to be numbers, why were there letters involved.

But when you grow up, get a job and need to support a family (which by the way is not as far off as you think) time passes quickly, it becomes very important to know math, all types of math, as you never know where your life may take you.

Chef's use math in recipe's cooking, construction workers use math when building, manufacturing employees use math when producing the products we purchase at the stores everyday, even clerks at the retail stores use math when exchanging money. We all use math when we get our paychecks and figure out our bills.

Heck when I became a freight manager I needed to use math to figure out fuel surcharges on shipments. At 45 I decided to go back to school and get my college degrees - YES degrees - one in CIS (Computer Information Systems) Network Security and the other in Accounting.

If you think that you are in hard math now -- wait until you try Binary or Hexadecimal math for computers, or when you start doing ratios in accounting.

You never know where life will take you, when I was your age I never thought that I would obtain degrees in Accounting or CIS but at the age of 45 I went back to college and at 51 walked down the isle to graduate.

Good luck and contact me if I can help you in anyway. I know how you feel sort of been there did that kind of thing and rose above it.


Unfortunately, no one can see into the future. School is trying to prepare you for what you may encounter in later years. As Thomas indicated, there are some daily applications of basic math. Some other daily applications are balancing your checkbook, knowing how much a reasonable tip is at a restaurant (especially if you're the server), completing your income taxes. Which is a better buy - four 20 ounce sodas at $1.59 each or a two liter bottle at $3.00 ?

Math is used to explain and predict in the sciences - physics, chemistry, etc. Statistics are used in Biology, Insurance, and many other fields. Calculus is used by police departments for accident reconstruction. If you're looking at a career in the medical field, math is essential - if you can't convert from cubic centimeters to milliliters to ounces on the fly, you could administer an incorrect dose of a medication. Trigonometry is used in construction and engineering. 

Math is one of those topics that you can't get away from - it's all around you. Distances, weights and measures, money, even time. And sometimes it just takes a little extra effort (and the right teacher or tutor) to help explain topics a little differently. 

"'ll never know until you get there!"  The point is 'getting there'...this kind of math enables you to get there...   ; )       J

"...There is no try! You do or do not!"    Yoda/The Empire Strikes Back

I guess you could ask yourself the question of what do you want to do with your life?  Regardless of your answer, you'll use some form of math on a daily basis.  Higher end math might help you develop a new website or web search algorithm, figure out the design specifications to crating a new stylish car.  Lesser  or less complicated forms of math could help your figure out your MPG, to ensure your engine is running efficiently, or how much money you'll take home from a days worth of work.

Ultimately, it's not about what good is math?  Math is used everywhere.  The question you should ask yourself is:  how will I use or incorporate math into my life?  This question is entirely up to you and your potential.

There are a lot of high-paying careers in the sciences that require you have a good knowledge of math. I work at a transportation agency and I can tell you, civil engineers use math all the time.  In order to get your engineering license, you have to take two exams which require you be proficient in higher-level math.