Why learning Algebra was actually good for you

From time to time, I hear people say that they haven’t used Algebra since they graduated high school and then they feel a little smug like, “Told you so”. Zing! They seem to think it was a big waste of their time to learn Algebra. I suppose we should all learn a lesson from this and never make kids learn Algebra any more.

Of course I’m being sarchastic. But why? Certainly, there are only some people who benefit from Algebra (Engineers, Rocket Scientists, Physicists, um,…. the end) and it is pointless for everyone else. Right?

No. Sorry, if you think you didn’t get much out of your High School Algebra class, then perhaps you have missed the whole point of your education, overall.

The real value of learning Algebra is this:

  1. You face a challenge that you are unlikely to (otherwise) encounter.
  2. You struggle
  3. You have to show a lot of determination to stick with it
  4. After much hard work and determination, you overcome it

And this is what you really get from learning Algebra: The life experience of struggling with something that is mentally challenging, and overcoming it.

Throughout the rest of your life, you will encounter similar struggles, but with different topics:

  • Calculating your income tax for the year
  • Searching for a job
  • Raising children
  • Buying a house
  • Dealing with an illness

Believe it or not, your experience in struggling with (and overcoming) Algebra, is something that you will rely on for the rest of your life and you will use those skill each time you face adversity or challenges.

Then again, some people find Algebra to be pretty easy. Those people tend to miss out on the valuable experience that they were supposed to get. Hopefully, those people go on to face bigger, more challenging topics like Calculus or Linear Algebra or Discrete Mathematics. It could lead to a career that benefits their fellow man by tackling mental tasks that are, quite honestly, over the heads of the rest of us. For those people, Algebra is merely a gateway drug, but it helps them realize their higher purpose/potential.

So, the next time, you think you haven’t used Algebra lately, think again. Oh, and don’t ever let kids skip-out on Algebra. Doing so would be stealing something extremely valuable from a kid who is unable to recongize its value. Don’t be that kind of person.

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About Tim Golisch

I'm a geek. I do geeky things.
This entry was posted in Career, Education, Professionalism and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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