Tag Archives: mathematicians and their gods

Why oh why and when oh when will we ever need this (maths)?

The summer past and gone, and the blog I did for my first co-edited volume out, I still keep going through some of the questions that bothered me in the first place (first with the book, then with the blog). The one that is a common question that every maths teacher will come across many a time in their career: “when will we need this?” is the classic, and perhaps deserves some further exploration.

Let me start from the post I came across on  facebook recently. It said something about how  little we need algebra.


Boohoo I say to one and all wanting to reduce all effort in our lives all round. We live once and have one opportunity to learn as many things as we can, do as many things as we can. And not only because I Love Maths do I say maths is worth learning.

In school all kinds of things are offered to kids to learn, so they can enjoy and participate fully in their society: and we don’t tend to ask why do they need to learn music, or literature, or business, or anything else they are learning about. If anything, my question is: why don’t we teach our kids more, or give them more options and opportunities to learn, not less. Well, for one, does the facebook exist so we can post things like the picture above? Its inventor, if anything, must have been really bad at algebra…

Then I get back to think about the actual purpose of education in general and maths in particular. Why teach maths at all? one suggestion is to find a crystal ball and ask it.

“When will I need quadratic equations?”


I dare any maths teacher to think of the answer to that. I think in my case, I needed it on 14th April 2002, 17th May 2011 and a few other times. Then also I need it every day because I find it beautiful to switch from one way of solving it to another, and from investigating how completing the square was done about 4000 years ago and has been done ever since. Or to see all the possible solutions to a problem that looks so simple to begin with and which starts from having an area of a rectangle being equal to some value….

In short, “I’m very well acquainted too with matters mathematical, I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical”

Coming up next week:

do you have to be weird to love maths?

follow the Genie and spread the word