Whenever I see someone’s frustration in learning math, the first complaint I usually hear is , “When will I ever need to use this later on in life?” Though there are many answers to this question, I found the best answer in a math book that I recently used called Meaningful Math.
What makes this text book so unique is its use of common math concepts to solve relevant real world situations. The reality is, understanding the mathematical foundation behind important, everyday functions and questions such as financial feasibility, allows us to develop skills that we can apply in almost every facet of our lives.
A stark comparison.
Last year, I had a student who needed help with linear inequalities. He was having a difficult time understanding the purpose of the inequality. He was using a standard textbook and taught under common core standards. I was teaching him to pass the his tests, but in reality, nothing really had any meaning to him, so he would learn and then just as easily forget.
In comes Meaningful Math.
A year later, the same student, who was retaking algebra I as a freshman, comes back for more math assistance for linear inequalities. My first though was, “Ok, this will be the same type of material.” I was considering how to refine this session so I wouldn't be teaching him how to simply pass a test. This is where “Meaningful Math” made all the difference. The textbook was able to relate the same concepts from last year, the lines, equations, and graphs into a real life situation. In this case, it was a bakery deciding how many cookies to bake and how many different variations.
This was great! I could now teach these math concepts in a format that my student can visualize, remember, and apply to similar situations. So now, instead of seeing the linear equation as a line with specific rules to memorize, we now visualize it as a constraint for something that we want to accomplish.
Learning math goes way beyond math.
How many chocolate chip cookies and pastries can Sarah bake for her son's birthday party given the cost of each material, oven/machine time, cost of human resources? If I need to swim across the river, which direction gives me the shortest path? Math can be taken to a whole new level when taught and learned in a meaningful way!
Life is all about constraints.
Clearly, each decision that we make in life has its constraints. No matter the real world situation, each constraint can be mathematically calculated, whether it be algebraic or geometric etc. How does each constraint affect how efficient we are? If we face a constraint and understand the mathematical structure of it, is there any way that we can change the mathematical integrity of it to allow that constraint to be more flexible for us?
The more we understand our constraints, the more efficient and effective we are in our decision making process. Lets face it, the best decision makers are our societies leaders.
So yes, math matters!
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