It is an age old question in math classes: “Why do we have to learn this? When are we ever going to use this in our lives?”

There is of course, a very fine answer to this that any teacher can be proud of. It consists of something along the lines of : What we are learning in class, whether it be how to factor a quadratic, how to graph a sine function, or anything else, is a building block to further education and to eventually lead to awesome applications in engineering, science, finance, etc.

This answer does not satisfy the student. That is, of course, because the student is convinced that they have no interest whatsoever in going any further than Grade 11 math.

So then, this is what we say to the student: “It is not relevant to you, and you will never use this in the real world.” But don’t leave it at that.

Let’s face it, most students may not ever use the subject for any practical purpose in their career. Sure, math is important day to day when balancing your cheque book, and taking change at the store………… but here is the real purpose for it.

Math, like no other subject, prepares students for the everyday problem solving that they need to succeed in the real world.

Now, in life, we all face many problems each day, where we are required to make complex decisions. The school system can’t possibly simulate all of the different things that are going to happen to all of the different people to prepare them for life. It can, however, put the students in a situation where they don’t know what to do, and they have to figure out what they have to do, rather than memorize a solution. Math does this. It forces the student to follow some logical rules, and solve problems in a step by step manner.

If you are looking for a way to motivate yourself to succeed in mathematics, try this: Make your math class like a training ground for the real world. See the questions as problems that need to be solved, and you are given the tools to solve them. It is a simulation for real life. Start to have fun with the questions, looking at homework as practicing the skills you are taught.

Your brain needs to be exercised just like your muscles, and math class is the gym where this exercise takes place.

So you may not use the actual topics you learn in the real world, just like a hockey player doesn’t actually lift weights in a game. But your brain is getting stronger because of the math, and this will help you unlock more of your mind and your potential for success!

Kevin Downe

www.mindovermath.ca

About the Author

Kevin Downe,

President of Mind Over Math Inc., a math tutoring centre in Orangeville and Waterloo ON.

Bacehelor of Mathematics, University of Waterloo

Bachelor of Business Administration, WIlfrid Laurier University

Candidate for Bachelor of Education, York University