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1

You'll need square roots for high school chemistry and physics. If you never take those classes, yes you dont need the roots. If you do, you will. This answer is pretty generalizable. Math is a tool of science and engineering. You can't even be a nurse without some of this stuff. And by tool, I mean a tool of the classes, not the practice. I worked as a ...


1

There has alreadby been several good and thoughtful answers, but I think what it boils down to is that maths is always useful, and most maths up to highschool level has many practical, everyday uses that others have already mentioned. It is also intensely boring to a teenager (unless you are a nerd, like me). At that age you are always questioning authority, ...


2

You learn math to build on top of those before you We only get so many years in our life. The best of us barely scrape together a hundred of them. So there is something to be said for building on top of the work of those before us. If you want to dance, you can always create your own dance. Indeed, some would argue that is the truest way. But typically ...


1

You have 2 packs of 34 paving slabs. You want to lay a square patio. How many slabs wide and long can your patio be? You are building a shed. The wall is 6 feet tall, and 8 feet long. If you need a diagonal brace for reinforcement, how long does it need to be? You have a cupboard that is 42" wide, and 25" tall. Can you fit a 48" TV in it? ...


3

Although there are many good answers, I want to respond specifically to point 4 that you made there, that you believe the question "why learn this?" is distracting the student from actually learning. I want to argue that learning "why learn this?" is actually more important than learning the topic. I was always terrible at maths when I ...


2

Most answers here (with the exception of @AndrewSanfratello's) focus on finding a practical purpose of mathematics (money, brain training, problem resolution, finding a job, keeping all doors open, etc.). These are all a posteriori justifications of mathematics. Mathematics have not been "created" for money or to find a good job. Mathematics, ...


3

Because many of the cool jobs need maths. Want to build robots? You need maths. Want to become a demolition expert? You need maths. Want to design fast cars or jet planes? You need maths. Want to design rockets that will take us to Mars? You need maths. Want to build computer games? You need maths. Want to make lots of money on the stock exchange or sports ...


5

I, my kids, and my grand children have all had toys where shaped blocks had to be placed inside a box with various shaped holes. None of the blocks would fit through a hole of a different size. W also had large colored buttons with holes in them. And colored string to feed through the holes. AS an adult, I can say that I have NEVER had the need to perform ...


7

(This answer is specific to square roots, not to the broader question except as an example.) I occasionally use square roots to make sense of the news. For example, suppose a fire has been reported to have burned 100,000 acres. How big an area is that, in terms that make sense to me? There are 640 acres per square mile, so divide by 640 and take the ...


3

Things taught at school can be divided into three rough categories: Key skills. Examples: reading, basic arithmetic. Knowledge that should leave a trace, causing someone to ask questions they wouldn’t otherwise think of. Examples: “If I’m thirsty during my camping trip, will I be able to drink water from the river? I vaguely remember something about ...


10

I think there is also a case to be made for "passive" uses. For any problem you encounter that you know is a math problem, you can always research and figure out how to do it. But there are situations that you won't necessarily realize are math related, but knowing math might help you. Getting scammed in pyramid and similar schemes is one such ...


5

Many/most of the comments and responses have assumed mathematics to be entirely in the field of hard sciences. I think that there is an argument to be had that mathematics as a field is also an art. Mathematics is beautiful. It is frequently located in the Arts and Sciences departments of colleges and universities. Other specific art subjects (e.g., painting,...


34

I found that my former students (low achieving ninth graders in the U.S.) always responded best when I answered with this: You enjoy watching sports right? Whether it's Football, Basketball, the Olympics, or whatever. Or maybe not sports, but you like watching a rock concert or orchestra. You pay money to see the famous athletes or famous musicians play in ...


5

As you said, it depends on the type of student you're dealing with. Some of them will have an interest in x, and you just have to make a connection to x. On the other hand, some students won't have enough perspective/experience to appreciate most answers you might give. I've had younger students argue with me about learning fractions and decimals. You'd ...


3

Something I heard a few years ago. Add this to your arsenal. "Will I ever need to use algebra?" You may not go into STEM. You may still get a white-collar job, as an office worker. (Most people never become an NBA player or a movie star.) The office may use spreadsheets to keep track of things. Each office has one person who knows enough ...


6

Following on from Lawnmower Man's answer, I think money is a very good example: one that people are familiar with and understand the importance of.  But you don't need to go as far as mortgages to see the need for powers and roots.  Perhaps an example that students are likely to encounter much earlier is credit card interest. For example: Credit card A ...


15

Money Most people will not need to compute the trajectory of a ballistic projectile, but everyone will need to deal with money to live in any advanced society. Furthermore, while many people can get by without doing any advanced math, it is pretty easy to introduce real-world examples which get hairy very quickly. Compound interest on credit cards are ...


6

I disagree with the idea that any student can be assumed to “never need” square roots, at the point where they are learning them. At that point the students are simply too young for us to make assumptions about their career paths. And while we can go back and forth about the particular utility of square roots, they’re part of a basic canon of math. It’s the ...


6

This is among the oldest questions about learning that has been asked. When a young person started learning geometry with Euclid and asked him why he should learn geometry, Euclid replied, "Give him threepence, since he must make a gain out of what he learns." I think you are overlooking some aspects related to your answer #3 about abstract ...


8

Find questions which are actually interesting to the student. Here is just one idea: Ask the students to make several rectangles with an area of 50. They might find $1 \times 50$, $2 \times 25$, $5 \times 10$, etc. Then challenge them to come up with some examples with non-integer side lengths. What are the perimeters of all of these rectangles? Can they ...


24

The closest I came to getting fired for something I said to a student. The student asked "When will I ever use this math in the future?" I responded, "Well, you won't, but the smart kids might." In my opinion, the right answer, even at the high school level, is to ask what they might wish to do in the future. The well rounded education ...


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