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The Value of Learning Math

Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

Without math, we wouldn't be able to solve as many real world problems as we can right now. You probably use math in your every day life without even thinking about it. In this lesson, we will discover how valuable math is.

Problem Solving

Why do we need math? Students wonder about this a lot as they learn more abstract math concepts and think, 'When will I ever use this in my life?' But teachers know just how valuable math is. In this lesson, you'll learn that math has its highest value in problem solving, in helping us solve practical problems. It helps us solve simple every day problems as well as more complex scientific and theoretical problems.

For example, without math, you wouldn't be able to tell your friend that you'll meet him in 2 hours for dinner. Your friend needs math so he can figure out just what time it will be in 2 hours. It doesn't seem like a big deal; after all, everybody knows that all you have to do is add 2 to figure out the time 2 hours later. Ah, yes. But what did you just do? You used math!


valuable math


And this is where math has its highest value. It solves many real world practical problems.

Other examples of problems that math solves are these.

  • How long do you need to keep a radioactive area clear before you can safely allow people to go back in?
  • If the population growth of rabbits keeps growing as it is, how long before rabbits will overtake all other animals in the area?
  • If I have 120 feet of fencing, what dimensions for a rectangle will give me the most contained area?

In this lesson, we'll look at how the mathematics fields of geometry, algebra, and calculus have provided valuable problem solving assistance over the years.

Geometry

Look at the field of geometry for example. Geometry is the field of mathematics that deals with lines, shapes, points, and space. Geometry has its roots in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians started to use a basic form of geometry back in 3,000 BC. It is this geometry that helped the Egyptians to survey their land and to build their pyramids. In 2,900 BC, after studying this newly discovered field of geometry, the Egyptians were able to use their knowledge to build their square pyramids.


valuable math


The field of geometry enabled the Egyptians to solve problems related to the building of the pyramids. For example, by using geometry, the Egyptians would be able to calculate the amount of space that's available inside the pyramid. Because the Egyptians also built burial chambers inside the pyramids, they needed to know how large of a pyramid they need to build in order to accommodate the burial chambers. The pyramid at Giza has three burial chambers inside. You can imagine all the geometry calculations needed to find the right dimensions for the chambers and then the pyramid itself. The pyramids themselves are a testimony to how useful geometry can be.

Geometry is still used today to measure lengths, areas, and volumes. It is used in construction projects since you need to take the amount of space you have available into account. Geometry lets you make calculations to determine how much paint you need, how much carpet you need, and how much fencing you need. Manufacturing facilities use geometry to determine how much product will fit inside various shapes and sizes of packaging.

Algebra

The field of algebra, an area of mathematics that deals with symbols, was developed first by the Babylonians, who wrote formulas that are still used today. With algebra, you can write formulas to represent a general situation, and then you can plug in detailed information into that formula to find the answer for your specific situation. For example, your bank uses an algebraic formula to determine how much money to give you for keeping your savings with them. The bank uses a general formula and then inputs your balance and your interest amount into that formula to find your exact earnings. If you have a savings or retirement account and you want to find out how much you will earn from an initial investment, you can use this formula.


math valuable


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