What Has Algebra to Do with Life?

By Sarah Del Rosario

Math teachers and parents alike hear the same question from their students and children. They want to know why they need algebra. After all, it does not appear to them that they will use these complex equations and odd symbols anywhere in life.

Modern educational theory stresses the importance of taking questions like this seriously and not brushing them off. Students do need to know why they are studying certain subjects or it is unlikely that they will ever focus all their effort on them. The problem is that sometimes these questions are hard even for experts to answer.

Why should you study algebra? Fortunately, there are several good reasons why anyone should study algebra and they should be fairly easy to elucidate to the youth of today.

Getting a Job

Too many people shirk their responsibilities with this reply and simply use a circular kind of logic. You need to get a job someday and you have to get at least a high school diploma to get a job. Increasingly, a full college degree is required. Since they study algebra in high school and college, you therefore need algebra, so this line of argument goes.

However, this just leads to the next question that is about why they study it in high school and college. Kids are smart enough to see that the first answer is not really an answer. It just makes the imposition of algebra seem all the more unjust.

A better answer might make allusion to the increasing prevalence of high tech jobs and the disappearance of many of the jobs that kids might imagine themselves doing. If they want to be involved in computers or tech in any way, algebra will come in handy. This is especially true if the student wants to be a part of developing software or designing hardware. In fact, they use much more complicated math to perform these tasks and algebra is just the first step in reaching that level of mathematical thinking.

Thought Processes

This answer is harder to explain but it is valid and students deserve valid answers even when they are difficult to understand. The fact is that this level of math is challenging and it forces you to think in new ways. Many experiences in life will force you to think in new ways in order to overcome them. Algebra is practice for difficult problems that each student will face in life.

Real-Life Algebra

Students may protest these answers and point out that they are decided on a career. They can then demonstrate that this career does not use algebra in any way. Therefore, they point out with a smile, they have no use for algebra.

The use of unknowns in algebra makes perfect examples for this defense. If a student says that there will be no x or y in their life, point out things like doctor’s bills. You know that every month you have to pay so much for rent, cars, insurance but you do not know what your medical costs will be. Any budgeting that you do in life is often dominated by these unknowns that may have to be included in your budget equations.

With these answers in reserve, it should be easy to tell a student why algebra is necessary in life.

Sarah Del Rosario a professional writer. She currently contributes at Help Your Teen Now. Help Your Teen Now brings together a vast collection of resources that will help families find their bearings and learn more about addressing teen issues.  For more information about the importance of algebra in any life, visit http://HelpYourTeenNow.com

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