So, here I am on Easter, waiting for the kids to get out of the pool so we can meet our family for brunch and I see a tweet that sparkles like rubies so, I click.

What’s the point of algebra?

How many times have you been asked “what’s the point of algebra?”? I feel like I have never had a good answer to this question that is relavent to the kids and their lives. Let’s find out what Great Maths Teaching Ideas’ readers think! Do you have a good answer to this question that will satisfy the kids? If so, please share it with us in the comments section below!

Oh, yes, the proverbial Why Algebra? Question:).

Ms. M says:

Student: What’s the point of algebra?
Teacher: No point….if you’re going to flip burgers in McDonalds.

John says:

There’s a lot of answers to this:
1) It’s a good place to practice reasoning and problem solving.
2) The content is powerful and has become the language of quantitative thought. It’s the generalization of what we know about numbers and how they relate to each other. It has become a language in which we can solve problems in other areas of math. How big, how far, how fast, how long, how many… and why.
3) Because of that, those who learn it have academic power and can choose from a wider variety of careers and vocations. I want my students to have that power.
4) It’s beautiful. We started by asking concrete questions about number and wound up with a discipline filled with symmetry and amazement, structures that surprise and confound us. As a bonus, after we find these things in algebra, sometimes we get to recognize these same structures in nature. It’s beautiful AND real!

Rogan says:

What if it’s on sale? What if I increase my data usage? What if I talk less and text more?…all algebra.

Here are my answers fast as I can, the kids are now calling from the car, “We’re hungry….”

1. I go w John, Algebra is art, it’s stunning.

2. If you wish to become an engineer (build an arch), design a set for Lady Gaga, paint priceless art, or run a business ~ (all of course to get the mansions these teens say they desire) u’ll need to know algebra. You’ll answer more questions in life with only part of the data or equation than u will with all the necessary data. So figuring out what’s missing is key.

3. Math is power, when u know math u can choose from a broader range of professions from marine biologist to pharmacist to perfume inventor.

4. Love what Rogan said too, algebra is smart phone usage.

5. The key, I observe playing math w youth is to teach concepts and meaning (Thomas Carpenter, Vygotsky) not just formulas. When kids get that numbers fit into other numbers ~ they have relationships, I hear, “ah-ha, I see it,” then they love it.

Now, that was fun! Thanks William