Let's be real here, mathematics have very poor reputation at being pointless and useless.
Pretty much any rant I've came across about learning useless things in school, math invariably is always the first one to be blamed; "Why should we learn math?", "What's the point of solving equations?", "When are we ever going to use the quadratic formula in life?".
However if you ask me, is learning math useful? I'll say "Oh yes! Math is one of the most useful subjects I've learned." Maybe I'm biased because I use math every single day of my life doing physics, and to a physics student, math is a tool (and a toy) that I use all the time.
Apart from using maths in my technical study of physics, I have also found math a very potent tool in real life. Knowing math sometimes feels like a superpower, where I'm able to see numbers everywhere, work with them, and listen to the stories behind the numbers.
For this article, I'll discuss why learning math is much more useful than we think, and how everyone of us can harness the power of math.
Looking at the Big Picture
ack to the question, why learn math? Even though very likely we are not going to use quadratic formula or integral calculus in our everyday lives, looking at the bigger picture, learning math trains our mind in many powerful ways. Such as cultivating analytical thinking, problem-solving skills, abstraction etc.
All these skills are highly useful not just in our professional lives regardless of what career we're getting into, they're also useful in facing the complexity of our daily lives.
For instance, a common complaint I've seen is that why can't we learn how to do our taxes instead of learning how to solve equations? Many seem to underestimate the complexity of doing taxes. I wish it will be as easy as simply paying a simple percentage of the amount I earned; but nope, there are many different forms of tax for different types of employment. We have income tax, GST, tax returns etc. Without a solid grounding in math, in calculating the numbers and following the logic, working out taxes will be a nightmare.
Furthermore learning math also lays the foundation to learn other skills. Any form of complex skill requires us to problem-solve, analyse the process, and abstract the ideas to understand better. Without the mental foundation the math, learning a new skill will take longer and more effortful. In other words, math is a skill to learn new skill.
I always compare learning math to doing push-ups.
Think about it, when are ever going to need push-ups in our everyday lives? I don't think anyone earns a living doing push-ups, or find push-ups directly useful in everyday life.
However in any fitness and sports training regimen, push-ups is always included. The reason for this is that push-ups trains our baseline fitness level, and core-muscle strength necessary to improve our physical performance and health. In the same manner learning math is useful for cultivating the baseline 'thinking muscle' for us to improve in performing other complicated task.
Using Math in Real Life
If you're wondering are we ever going to use math in real life? The answer is yes. If you examine the things around us closely, you'll see math everywhere.
Having some basic math skills I found that will make life a lot easier. It's like having a mental toolbox to work out things, especially those involving numbers. Need to figure out how to split the bill? No problem! Need to estimate my travel time based on the distance? Too easy!
Here are some places where math can come in very handy in our daily life:
So think math is useless? Think again before giving up on your algebra homework.