In ten years of off and on teaching I have heard this many more times than I can count. I have to admit that since I have always taught at the college level I used to be surprised when I heard this. Part of me USED to think “haven’t you grown out of this yet?” . Recently I realized that I am being asked this because no one has given students a truthful answer. Unless you plan on going into a technical field (or just love math)
YOU VERY WELL MAY NEVER SOLVE AN EQUATION AGAIN IN YOUR LIFE
…or simplify an algebraic expression, or reduce a matrix, or…. Etc. You get the idea.
You will probably not do this anymore than you will repeatedly lift a heavy object in a specific manner for a set number of repetitions. Strangely however, no one ever asks “when will I ever use this” while weightlifting.
Basic math is certainly used every day by the average person. Fractions, decimals, addition and subtraction find their way into many tasks. Math truly is the language of science and defines how the world works. But just like you don’t need to know programming to use a computer – you don’t necessarily need to know algebra and calculus to operate in the day to day world.
However, just like being strong and in shape is an asset in day to day life, so is problem solving. By learning methods and concepts from mathematics you are not only learning the language of how the world works but you are simply learning how to THINK LOGICALLY AND SOLVE PROBLEMS.
You are learning how to get information out of a seemingly complex situation, use a process, find answers, and make decisions. You are learning how to put complex ideas together and take things that appear unrelated and use them at the same time. I could go on and on.
If you don’t think you use any type of problem solving skills in your day to day life then let’s have a 5 minute conversation. I will point out all the times in your day where you used these skills. (how did you decide the best way to avoid that traffic jam this morning?)
Then there is the bonus. If you DO decide “you know what I am interested in physics” (or computer science, or engineering, or any science) SURPRISE not only have you learned how to think logically but you already know how to read the language of these fields: Mathematics.
So when will you use it? EVERY DAY OF YOUR LIFE…..See ya’ll at the gym!