General Question

Bluefreedom's avatar

Does anyone remember a teacher or teachers in high school telling them that what they're learning is somehow going to be important later in life so they had better learn it well and not to forget it?

Asked by Bluefreedom (22944points) November 22nd, 2008

I had a math teacher explain to me that learning Algebra is important and it will benefit me because I’m probably going to need to know it later on in life.

I’m now 41 years old and I can’t remember a single time, outside of high school, where Algebra has ever been significant in anything that I’ve done.

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27 Answers

jtvoar16's avatar

I am sadly one of the few, few, children that has needed Algebra and even some complex things outside of HS.
Between Photography, being a nerd, a geek, and a Writer who is obsessive about the details, I need as much knowledge as I can cram into my skull without bumping something else out.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

At New York’s Kennedy airport today, an individual later
discovered to be a public school teacher was arrested trying
to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a
protractor, a setsquare, a slide rule, and a calculator.

At a morning press conference, Attorney general John Ashcroft
said he believes the man is a member of the notorious
al-gebra movement. He is being charged by the FBI with
carrying weapons of math instruction.

“Al-gebra is a fearsome cult,”, Ashcroft said. “They desire
average solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off
on tangents in a search of absolute value. They use secret
code names like “x” and “y” and refer to themselves as
“unknowns”, but we have determined they belong to a common
denominator of the axis of medieval with coordinates in every country.

“As the Greek philanderer Isosceles used to say, there are 3
sides to every triangle,” Ashcroft declared.

When asked to comment on the arrest, President Bush said, “If
God had wanted us to have better weapons of math instruction,
He would have given us more fingers and toes.

“I am gratified that our government has given us a sine that
it is intent on protracting us from these math-dogs who are
willing to disintegrate us with calculus disregard. Murky
statisticians love to inflict plane on every sphere of
influence,” the President said, adding: “Under the
circumferences, we must differentiate their root, make our
point, and draw the line.”

President Bush warned, “These weapons of math instruction
have the potential to decimal everything in their math on a
scalene never before seen unless we become exponents of a
Higher Power and begin to factor-in random facts of vertex.”

Attorney General Ashcroft said, “As our Great Leader would
say, read my ellipse. Here is one principle he is uncertainty
of: though they continue to multiply, their days are numbered
as the hypotenuse tightens around their necks.”

Darwin's avatar

I remember it, and I have had to use algebra and geometry in my adult life, but not calculus. While of use in helping my kids with their homework, I have actually used these two fields when doing landscaping, figuring out quantities of concrete needed for a project and so on.

I guess you could say that these are weapons of math construction as far as I am concerned.

Bluefreedom's avatar

Great answer, Alfreda…..LOL

bianlink's avatar

You are right.
For a lot of people they may just need 20% to 30% of knowledge they learned in high school.
However, the issue when in high school you were too young to know which 20%~30% would be important for you in future.
That’s why we learn all of them.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I can honestly say being competent in math has definitely made my life easier. Its all relative.

wairoagurl's avatar

yes i have and it turned out that i didnt really need to learn it they where just saying that so i would pay attention

Fieryspoon's avatar

algebra is important for more than doing math. It teaches you to think logically to assess complicated problems. No matter what your profession, algebra will have reinforced your ability to work through a problem.

The things you’re being taught in school are not necessarily what you think you’re learning.

wildflower's avatar

Every so often I’ll recall a quote or statement made by one of my teachers – to be honest, I probably kept more of their aside’s and general advise than the knowledge they tried to cram in to my head…

Math teacher (drunk at a local festival): ”<wildflower>, you’re the biggest waste of talent I’ve ever seen”
English teacher (big debate in class – thank you MTV for putting us ahead of the curve!): “suit is pronounced [shute]”......erm, no!
Danish teacher (a tall, outspoken, colourful character): “I always wish I could fade in to the background more” – this one came to mind recently when reading up on Chris Argyris Theory of Action
Economics teacher: “all things being equal, the simplest solution is probably the right one” – just a great quote!
History teacher: ”...some people like maths – they’re just perverted like that”

cdwccrn's avatar

Thanks for the smile this Sunday morning, Alfreda :)

cdwccrn's avatar

Yes, I remember teachers saying that. I use basic algebra. Very basic.
I think, though, that having a good grounding in liberal arts, math and foreign language does prepare us for life in the world even if we do not use some of it and eventually forget alot of it.
And the act and work of learning develops our brains in profitable ways as well.
At least I recognized some of the terms in Alfreda’s answer!

girlofscience's avatar

Battle of Hastings. 1066.

eaglei20200's avatar

Algebra, yes, and interestingly, some dire predictions about population, food, and war. This was in the 1960s, when Paul Ehrlich was all the rage, but I’ve always kept my eye on population and hunger issues as a result. The worst of the Ehrlich’s “population bomb” predictions didn’t come true before 2000, but he may just have been off by a half-century or so. Hope not, but it’s looking kind of grim these days.

Also had a teacher tell me to check the comics and the sports page as part of developing a balanced approach to life. Don’t always do it, but it was good advice.

laureth's avatar

As a knitter, I’ve used some algebra when figuring out how to make my own designs. In real life, though, I’ve used geometry far more often than algebra.

The way that algebra helped, though, was learning how to think logically. First this, then this, in a logical framework. That’s the really useful thing about it.

The literature stuff? Besides entertaining friends while stuck in an icy ditch with my stunning rendition of Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, the most useful part was patience (I actually did read War and Peace in high school), a knowledge of the human condition, and just simply learning to love to read. I wish more kids these days read books.

History? That was very important. Not necessarily to getting a job or anything, but to be able to see patterns in the way things happen, to know how we got here from there, and to judge what might happen in the future.

The stuff we learn in school is useful, but more useful is that we’re learning stuff. Something, anything. Learning how to learn is key. It makes us conversant with bigger ideas, teaches us how to improvise, and even makes more neuron connections in our brain that we can use for other things.

How’s this for irony? If we don’t fill our heads up while we’re young, it’s harder to fit stuff in later – but if we do fill our brain early on, there’s always room for more.

miasmom's avatar

This question is great because I used to be an algebra teacher and heard it all the time. I know algebra is useful and you probably don’t even realize you are using it, but I used to tell my students they needed to learn it so when their children had questions they would be able to explain them.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I’ve forgotten everything I ever learned in High School except how to drive a stick shift. Wait, I learned that on my own, too.

All the teachers I had that may have said that are either all dead or senile; so it’s a little late to go back and ask them. Oh well. I have enough knowledge to get me by, which is all I can possibly want. Who needs edumucations anyhow?

sillymichelleyoung's avatar

Because of my major, I will definitely need algebra.

However, there are some subjects that I do feel are almost irrelevant for me, but I guess I’ll find out after I graduate.

galileogirl's avatar

On a more global level, the best thing you learn in high school is how to navigate the system. You learn the easiest way to jump through inevitable hoops. If you learn that well, life will be easier as you have to jump through ridiculous hoops to get a chance to get to what you enjoy doing.

On the other hand EVERYTHING I learned in history and government classes has proven useful to me…because now that’s what I teach.

Bluefreedom's avatar

I just found this on the internet a little while ago. I’d seen it before many years ago but I always liked it.

All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
– by Robert Fulghum

Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in Kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandbox at nursery school.

These are the things I learned: Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life. Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work some every day.

Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the plastic cup. The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the plastic cup – they all die. So do we.

And then remember the book about Dick and Jane and the first word you learned, the biggest word of all: LOOK . Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation, ecology and politics and sane living.

Think of what a better world it would be if we all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about 3 o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankets for a nap. Or if we had a basic policy in our nation and other nations to always put things back where we found them and clean up our own messes. And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

sillymichelleyoung's avatar

@Bluefreedom, I love that article.

Bluefreedom's avatar

It is pretty neat, isn’t it? :o)

sarahsugs's avatar

As a teacher, I would respond by saying that I am concerned with teaching my students academic content primarily as a means through which to teach them how to think. You may not remember any equations or procedures from high school algebra, but (if you had a good teacher) you most likely still use the problem-solving and logical-thinking skills you developed while learning those equations and procedures. I am not arrogant enough to assume that my students will remember anything I say or do with them 10 years from now. I am optimistic enough, however, to hope that the ways in which I am teaching them to engage in discussion, to articulate their questions and opinions, to monitor their comprehension while reading, to solve problems creatively, and so on, will be useful to them now and as adults.

finkelitis's avatar

I’m going to refer you to another question featuring a brilliant essay on this very subject.

In general, “you’re going to need this later” is a terrible reason to learn anything, and teachers who say it (except in rare cases) are generally doing so because they can’t demonstrate a good reason to learn it now. In my opinion, present need (or interest) is the only compelling reason to learn anything.

But read the essay on the link. The author has a lot to say about this issue.

I am, by the by, a mathematician and a teacher. What freed me was the realization that no one needs anything later, and if they do, they’ll just learn it then. (On the other hand, success in algebra is more highly correlated with success later in life than any other single academic influence.)

wundayatta's avatar

I’ve forgotton all the things I didn’t need to learn, and a good deal of what I did need, as well!

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

I just had the need to use algebra in an everyday context (and actually I thought of another usage in a more everyday econtext.) The first is to scale photographs. You have a photograph that you want to be used on a web site and in print. Can you use the same file or do you need to have two different files? (Web photos need to be 72 line screen or 144 dpi, commercial print is 300 dpi, newspaper is 170 dpi) If your web shot is 4×5, print 4×8, and newspaper 3 col x 10, then what is the optimal file size to save your data if you shot 8×10 @ 600 dpi.

On a simpler note, if I’m cooking Thanksgiving for 19 people, and my usual recipes serve 6 to 8 people, what should my grocery list look like in order to not overspend, and minimize leftovers, but still make sure everyone has plenty to eat?

girlofscience's avatar

Also, I need to use trig on a regular basis in my work. I never imagined I would be using the crazy rules of trig when I learned them in high school.

asmonet's avatar

@girlofscience: I laughed so hard when I read your 1066 comment. That’s the one date that has stuck in my head since the day I learned it. It’s won me two pub trivia contests too. :D

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