Tuesday, December 7, 2010

On the Merits of Mathematics

I am not fond of math, and my lack of fondness for arithmetic is apparently genetic because none of my children like it either. In fact, they are always trying to point out to me how useless it is. I try to explain that math is important for almost any career.

"Do you know how important doctors are?" I ask. "Well, they need math for their job."

"No, they don't," my oldest argues. "They just use science."

She's in for a rude awakening when she reaches Chemistry and Physics.

I may have broken through a little bit, though, with my oldest boy. We were counting change the other day in math and doing a little playacting. "Suppose I bought this from you," I imagined with him as I held up a pen. "And suppose it cost $1.34, but all I had to give you was a $5 bill. What would you give me as change?"

He counted out the change and then suddenly his eyes lit up. "So if you're a cashier in a store, you have to use math?!"

I paused for a minute. Should I let him in on the secret of the 21st century? Should I tell him that cash registers do the work for you? That they tell you how much change to give? That you don't really have to use math to figure it out for yourself?

"You're right, Michael! Yes! Cashiers do have to use math!"



homeschoolmom said...

Don't tell him about the time I was in the Burger King drive thru line and the cashier used her cell phone to calculate my change. I didn't know whether to cry because she couldn't do it or laugh because she was right in front of the register.

Sanna said...

Well, you do still have to be able to count the change which if you become proficient at, makes for much happier customers. (sorry for the run-on, my brain is tired. :)) Math is also important for baking even if you do use a box...

Teacher Mommy said...

I'm an English teacher exclusively and still use math. Maybe not Algebra and such, granted, but math.

MTL uses Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry in his job on a daily basis. But then, he's one of those weirdos who actually LIKES math. Sigh.

Oh!!! I know where it's important! When they grow up and become adults and have do things like pay bills and taxes and make household budgets. That's where I use the most math. So there you go!

Maybe you should use some practical application practice. Have them learn how to use checkbooks, monitor bank accounts, make budgets, etc.--even if it's at a grade school level rather than adult, especially for the budget. That could be fun and practical and drive home the actual need for math.

Amy @ Cheeky Cocoa Beans said...

I like math.

There. I said it. (sigh) I found it simultaneously hysterical and sad the day that the LifeWay computers were down and they not only had to make an imprint of our debit card but had to manually write out receipts and use calculators to figure the total including tax. And, on top of all that, I was walking the young cashier through how to compute tax on my own receipt. I think I was her first pen-and-paper customer after the system crashed, and she was so very flustered. I felt sorry for her.