Thursday, August 29, 2013

Yes, I Use Algebra Every Day

Math is a wonderful thing. Just ask Ned Schneebly, played by Jack Black, in the wonderfully delicious movie, “School of Rock”. This clip is one minute. Totally worth it.







I've had three conversations recently about math, its merits, its teachers, and after the third one last night, I just couldn't help myself. This is a blatant ad for how great math is, IF you get the right teacher.

It all started with this picture you've probably seen circulating on fb.



We got into quite a discussion on that thread about when algebra is actually used in everyday life. My contention is that you use it all the time, but it's become an innate skill, so you don't notice. Others argued that they're just using common sense and arithmetic. I say you have to be able to put that arithmetic into the problem in the correct way to find your answer and that's algebra. I even challenged one commenter that she was using calculus without knowing it, but that's for another post.

Another conversation got started on fb, with the same picture, about how it's the teacher who makes the difference. I totally agree with this, and not just because I was (and will always be inside) a math teacher, 7th grade. It's the teacher's JOB to make sure each student understands math. This is where the magic part comes in. Math problems have one correct answer, yet there are multiple paths to that answer. Those different paths represent different learning styles, and figuring out a student's learning style will help the teacher know which type of explanation should be used for that kid. Most teachers don't bother with this though, and that breaks my heart. They've figured out that a certain method will work for 75% of the class, and that's good enough.

That is a good strategy for the lesson part of the class. It's during the walking around and checking with each student portion of the class, as they're working the new material, where the different methods come in. Some teachers just sit at their desks, though. Criminal. So many kids are turned off by math and made to feel dumb because they “don't get it.” Get a new teacher, you can be great at math! Don't give up!

The third conversation was just between me and a friend whom I was helping with her son's algebra homework. She was saying it was so great to have him past simple arithmetic because he never did well in that, but that the higher concepts of algebra really clicked with him, and with the help of his (allowed, as it should be) calculator, he was doing well for the first time.  Some kids struggle with basic math, but excel at the abstract stuff.

My final point would be that math really is cool. It's a language, it's a way of describing the world, it's a puzzle to be figured out, and it's good gymnastics for your brain. Now get out there and do some math! Or help your kid with their homework, and try to figure out how he or she thinks. It will be worth it.

What are your feelings about math? Have you used algebra today? Did you have good or bad teachers? Or if all this math is making you ill, then what subject do you get all excited about?


~Tina

P.S A friend posted this on fb just for me.  LOVE a good math joke.  If you come across one, please send it to me - I collect them.


26 comments:

Andrew Leon said...

Well, I'm a math person, but, objectively, most people don't have a lot of use for math, beyond arithmetic, in their everyday lives. Algebra will come up occasionally but hardly every day. For most people. Things like geometry and beyond are even less commonplace. Which is not to say that I think it shouldn't be taught. Learning how to do proofs, the process of it, can be a huge boost to learning how to think about things. The logic involved is important.

And, well, heck, most people don't even do their own arithmetic now that calculating devices are so common place, so, as it is, most people just don't do/need math.

Of course, then, most people also do not read.

Mary Aalgaard said...

I'm a word girl. I also love the arts. So, math was not my favorite. Yet, I wasn't bad at it. Your post today has given me a new perspective. I've NEVER heard of a math teacher saying there are many ways to reach the answer. NEVER. And, yet, that is what has just shifted my perception of math. I found it annoying to show my work and not have followed the steps exactly. And, we learned to do the problems differently than our kids are being taught this "new math," so I never thought I was much help for them. In fact, I'd say that the kids got their math brains from their dad. Just last night, at high school open house, I said it again to the advanced algebra teacher who said he prefers to have the kids do their work in class, rather than assign gobs of homework, so that he is there to answer those questions. I thanked him.

You are a fabulous teacher. Thanks for what you've done for kids, and their parents.

Rock on! Love that movie, too!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Math was never my strong suit, but I'm sure I use algebra without thinking. And no, I didn't have great teachers in school.

Brian Miller said...

ah. i am a math teacher and i spend a bit of time each day giving the students a frame of reference in their own lives so they can see how it plays in...and gives them a bit more incentive to learn...

Kate @ Another Clean Slate said...

I wish I had better math skills- sometimes I am baffled. You should read my friend from college's blog Derivatives of Life :)

Hart Johnson said...

<3 I LOVE math (says the statistician). But I could never TEACH it. The trouble is I have one of those wacky brains that processes easily, so I don't understand what other people don't understand. My daughter and I had SUCH trouble when I'd try to help her. My husband too--he had to take a couple math classes a few years back. We fought so much as he accused me of skipping steps...

I had some FABULOUS teachers though. All of them, really.

JoJo said...

As you know, I weighed in on this with you on Facebook; I recognize one of the FB convos you cite as the one that was on my page. I agree, the teacher makes all the difference. when my 9th grade teacher took the time to show me new ways till I understood one, I did pretty well. Only time I ever got a B- in math. The other grades were Ds and Fs, although I was given a passing grade b/c i did try....or they just didn't want to deal with me anymore!

loverofwords said...

Tina, again a great topic! I never liked math, but I liked the "idea" of math, what it makes possible, engineers, architects, the string theory, etc. But. . .I hate math, never was good at it. And the math brain, like yours, just knows how to connect numbers, they actually mean something to the math brain. But Art, Creative Writing, Music, Literature, I am in!

Jeremy [Retro] said...

it adds up to be a great post, except the weird odd shape of the video... math would have helped here... :)

Romance Reader said...

Great post though I did love Math and was good at it!

Nas

D.G. Hudson said...

I dislike the abstract concepts, and algabra didn't like me either, hence had to give up my astronaut dream. . .

I envy you mathematicians who enjoy it.

Lucy said...

I hate math with a passion BUT I ABSOLUTELY KNOW I NEED IT!! I had some awesome teachers (and not some good ones) that really dealt well with me and my frustrations but I am so glad they dealt with me. I had a meltdown one day in Geometry but my teacher ( a nun) really stuck it out with me and I am so thankful. I still struggle with Math, it is not my strong suit but by golly I know darn well I need it. Same with History, I see the same comments. It is sad what people think, like they can Google everything. They don't understand that we need to learn and know things. UGH. Sorry for my rant. I totally understand your frustration about Math.

Lucy from Lucy's Reality

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tina .. lots of maths teachers, interested bloggers here - and everyone else who understands that maths makes up our world .. it affects each and every aspect ...

We weigh things for cooking, the kids need it for their bike tyres or car tyres in your case .. we use it when we buy goodies ... it's all around us - the fibonacci numbers occur in nature and in medieval building ... and no doubt much else ...

I enjoyed maths, but it was probably good I didn't take it further .. I even wrote a blog post about Fibonacci! I learnt.

Cheers - and look forward to more posts along these lines ...

happy long weekend .. Hilary

writermummy said...

I love the point about how you can be good at the abstract without being good at arithmetic. I can't do sums for toffee and don't know my times tables past 7, but I loved algebra at school. People don't understand how I got an A in A Level maths but still use the calculator on my phone to split a restaurant bill (even £100 by 5!) I blame my creative right brain thinking!

T.F. Walsh said...

I'm a fan of maths and actually loved it at school...and agree, it is used everyday. I sure use it all the time:) Oh, and I love Jack Black:)

Jo said...

Did you notice your English readers call it maths? I was never much good at it although I did like algebra. I once had a teacher who started to make me understand but for various reasons I had to leave that school and that never happened again. I would like to know how I use algebra every day?

Gary Philip Pennick said...

Hey Tina,

Did you know that "math" is called "maths" in Britain? Neat, eh.

I can understand your fascination with algebra. After all, you can use letters to represent numbers. And I know how much you love letters. Coincidentally, the blogfest to end all blogfests, hopefully, has a bit of a theme sort of noted in your posting.

I hated maths in school. I like it now. Um go figure. It just doesn't add up.

Have a lovely weekend, Tina.

Gary :)

Arlee Bird said...

So true about the teachers. I always kind of liked math when I was in school until my senior year when I got one of the worst teachers ever. I became math stupid in his class. He later went on to administration and became school superintendent, a job he was better suited to than teaching.

Math should be our friend, but so many of us get turned off by it in school.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Samantha Geary Jones said...

Whenever you feel like visiting--I'll let you take over my homeschool math sessions. I'll entice you with coffee and cookies *teaching math is not my strong-suit*

WriterlySam

Kellie @ Delightfully Ludicrous said...

I'm a finance person so I use algebra all the time.

Vidya Sury said...

Tina, I read this post in my mailbox and just got around to commenting. That poster at the end of your post is so funny.

Algebra is amazing and I used to love it at school. I went on to continue studying Science but loved Math.

By the way my husband is a mathematician who specializes in Number theory. :-) And oh yes, the teacher makes all the difference. I remember hating chemistry and then falling in love with it, thanks to a change in professors.

Love how you write!

Milo James Fowler said...

A good teacher can make a difference -- with most students. But some kids have a hatred of math so ingrained in them, there's little we can do to change their minds. I taught math (and English) for 11 years, and while I tried to make it fun, a handful of kids refused to let me break down the barriers they'd built. Now I'm teaching English and creative writing, and the barrier I have to deal with: kids' teachers have used essays as punishment over the years, so by the time these students enter my class, they seriously hate to write.

M.L. Swift said...

Very good post, Tina.

People use algebra without even knowing it. Anytime you're finding an unknown, you're essentially using it.

Grits directions call for one part grits to four parts water...makes four servings. But how to make ONE serving...calls for algebra.

I had THE math teacher of math teachers and I was BLESSED! I had him for all my high school maths (it was an accelerated program). He was a teacher that really made learning fun, and he was damn good at it.

If I see a funny math meme/sign, I'll be sure to pass it along.

Thanks for visiting!

M.L. Swift, Writer

CA Heaven said...

Math is great, I certainly agree. I'm using math everyday too. Not only algebra, but also calculus, differential equations, linear algebra. Without advanced math, there would be no computers, cell phones, cars, air planes, bridges ...

Cold As Heaven

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I love math. I think creative people do because it's the polar opposite of creating words. It jungles our sense of timing and rhythm. Look at how important word count is, and dates and calculations are in a story. Fascinating, really.

My dad passed on his love of numbers. I can get a bit OCD when it comes to making plans though.

Guest hosting today, and very glad to be back at your blog, Tina. It's been too long.

Heidi Stevenson said...

I shared this post on my Facebook page. I love math, and I think it is useful and not just a necessary evil. I googled the meme, because I could no longer find it or my comments concerning it, but the google search led me to your blog. Thanks for writing it.

Here's the link to my post and the new, improved meme:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=569339793139562&set=a.437388323001377.101283.437162769690599&type=1&theater