I will never use algebra?

“Why do they teach algebra when I will never use it?”

This question has turned up on social media recently. Once one person has posted it another posts the same thing. None of them has stopped to think, “Why have I no use for algebra?”

A calculator sits on a page of algebraic equations.
Picture from Wikipedia commons

The reason that algebra is taught is that there is a great need for algebra, if you have no need for algebra it is because someone has already done it on your behalf.

I will take it for granted that the person with no need for algebra is not a computer programmer. Do you have an app or two on your smartphone? Someone has done algebra. In fact someone has done algebra to make the smartphone work.The same goes for the programming of washing machines and dishwashers, in order for you simply switch to a setting and turn the machine on someone has had to do a lot of algebra.

But the main reason you are taught algebra is not to teach you how to do algebra,it is to teach you how to make decisions. Somethings cannot be pre-programmed by someone else.You have to do it on your own.

In Maths you are first taught arithmetic, when you see a sum like 6 + 4 / 2 = then you have been taught how to add and divide and the order in which to do them and can come up with the correct answer of 8. But what if you don’t know what one of the numbers is, or the order the addition and division have to be performed, how can you make the correct decision? That’s where algebra comes in. In life we often do not have all the information we need at our fingertips or, thanks to the internet, too much information and don’t know which information to trust. But if we can apply what we have learned from doing algebra, we can make a better informed decision.

I like maths. Not because it is easy, but because it is hard. People who are good at maths are good because they have done the hard work of learning maths. I even have been known to use a spreadsheet when studying the Bible. Odd,but I like logic. But I do tend to trust the decision making of people who can do algebra.

One thought on “I will never use algebra?

  1. John

    Good for problem solving which leads to good decisions. I found algebra hard but loved it.

    When I could do a bit of programming to solve equations…WOW.

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