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Why Is Math Important?
Date: 01/02/2002 at 15:30:23
From: Amanda Dalton
Subject: Why math is important
Why is math so important? Some of it we don't need to know in the
real world so why do they teach us things we won't need to know?
Date: 01/02/2002 at 16:57:46
From: Doctor Achilles
Subject: Re: Why math is important
Hi Amanda,
Thanks for writing to Dr. Math.
This is a really hard question to answer well. I can think of a few
reasons.
The first is that it's often surprising how many places strange math
ideas pop up. We have an FAQ page dedicated to this, and it links to a
lot of archives that show how math is used in a lot of different
professions (from physics and medicine to law and just your everyday
life):
Why Study Math?
http://www.mathforum.org/dr.math/faq/faq.why.math.html
But there are two really important reasons for learning math that
don't directly link to how you will use it in your daily life.
The first is basically "the more you know, the more options you have
available." I'm 21 years old. Almost everyone I know who is my age
either had no idea what he or she wanted to do 5 years ago, or they
thought they knew but then changed their minds later. (Actually, a
fair number of my friends STILL don't know what they want to do.) I
have one close friend who wanted to be a computer scientist until he
got to college, and then he changed his mind and he's now studying
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politics. But all the math that he learned for computer science has
helped him with the statistical analysis and economics he has to study
as part of his politics work. Fractions, geometry, algebra, and trig
will all be integrated into just about anything you ever want to
study, and having practiced those things in high school will allow
you to not have to worry about relearning them later. Slopeintercept
form for economic graphs or for population models in biology should be
second nature, so that you don't have to worry about math later and
can focus on what you really do want to study.
For example, let's say you want to be an ecologist. Ecologists often
study population size. Let's say that you're studying a population
whose size increases like this: size = 2 * time + 100. This is a
standard slopeintercept equation. A lot of people don't want to learn
slopeintercept because it doesn't seem to have any point. But if you
understand it enough that you don't have to think about it, then when
you see an equation like that, you won't have to worry about the math
at all and you can just think about the ecology.
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