Why should I learn Math?
Why should I learn this? A common question Math teachers face worldwide. I think it is a valid question. And most of the time the answer is that you need it in future. It is not really a convincing answer but we usually go with it.
I forced myself to think about it a bit more. Many times I do or teach or learn Math just for the sake of it. I like solving a puzzle or a Sudoku. It gives a certain kind of pleasure to me. When I tell this to my life partner, her response is like “Really?” She doesn’t get the fun or pleasure part of it. As a teacher I am continuing the conversation with her to show the excitement in finding a pattern or solving a puzzle. May be, one day she will see it. Maybe.
The second reason for learning/doing math is as specialized knowledge. I teach High School Math. I learn more and more about it so that I can bring more insights and perspective to it. An Engineer learns Math to do engineering projects. An Accountant learns Math to take care of accounting related work. A Mathematician to create new Math or a Physicist to create models of natural phenomenon and so on.
The third reason for learning Math is to take care of life. Personal finance, buying equity shares, to calculate if the discount offered is worth or not. To calculate how many hours of work you are putting to do the chores at home and hence what is the monetary worth of it.
The fourth reason could be to create art. We can use simple circles to create beautiful patterns. If you look at traditional Art ( Indian, Arabic, Mayan etc.), they are all intricate art using basic geometry.
The fifth reason could be to understand human history. To understand, analyze, critique, and take action regarding important social and political issues in our world, especially issues of equity and justice. As I read somewhere, Algebra was originated to solve the problem of sharing ancestral property among daughters and sons. Sons get double the share of daughters. There were Mathematicians in the Arabic world to help people to do this. It is amazing to see the origin of a branch of Math in the context of gender inequality. Most of the time I teach algebra, this story is shared and we talk about feminism.
If we are able to talk and do all these things in our class rooms, learning Math becomes a meaningful activity. It becomes a living breathing entity rather than an abstract disconnected body of knowledge that intimidates the keenest learner. At this point if we tell a student that this may need it for future she may be more receptive of the answer
About the Author - Josephdeyone Jacobi is one of Gubbachi’s founding members. He designed Gubbachi’s Math curriculum for the bridge program. Deyone is a Math specialist. Safe to say he lives and breathes it!