“When will I ever need this in real life?”

Students (and their parents who might be wondering the same thing):

Why the heck are you learning all that nonsense in school (particularly higher math) that you’ll never use in the real world later in life?

Because it’s not about WHAT you learn, but the way you grow and develop your brain.

mathstudent-dreamstime_xs_81340398Math, music, languages, and other subjects all develop our brains in different areas. This makes us well-rounded and capable of learning things and solving life’s problems in the future–problems that ARE relevant to our survival in the real world–because we “hook on” to what we already know, or use areas of our brain that were, thankfully, previously developed.

So you may not use the math, but you’ll use the byproduct: the reasoning power the math created.

Furthermore, the mantra “use it or lose it” applies to brains and memory as much as to physical fitness. You do need to exercise your mind “muscle” frequently or it will become flabby. Our bodies are frighteningly keen and efficient: “Not using that? Great! Let’s scrap it and recycle it.”

Embrace learning not for what you’ll use the material for, but for the sake of learning itself. That simple shift in perspective may make learning your next unit a whole lot easier to stomach!

(Written February 18, 2012 and February 18, 2017.)

See also: Playing Music: A Full Workout for the Brain

About Eva Blaskovic

I am a multi-genre author of literary fiction and fantasy, and writer of non-fiction articles on parenting, writing, education, health, and travel. My background encompasses both the sciences and the arts. I teach at a specialized clinic for learning difficulties and mentor young authors. In addition to writing and teaching, my passions are weather, Indian food, gardening, and music. I have played eight musical instruments and spent many years immersed in taekwondo and karate. In my youth, I was an avid canoeist. I was born in Prague, Czech Republic, grew up in Ontario, Canada, and moved to Alberta in 1988, where I raised four children.
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11 Responses to “When will I ever need this in real life?”

  1. I specialize in number theory and combinatorics. So, in a sense, other subjects in pure mathematics like topology, ring theory and cohomology theories don’t have much use for me. Of course, applied mathematics is virtually useless. However, even if that’s the case, I still study them just for the sake of learning. That’s why I also study literature, history, linguistics, science, etc. on my own… just for the sake of learning.

    Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Playing Music: A Full Workout for the Brain | Beyond the Precipice

  3. JJAzar says:

    “Embrace learning not for what you’ll use the material for, but for the sake of learning itself.” If only this attitude was impressed upon students…The US would be a place of innovation and scholarly cultivation. Great post, Eva! I agree entirely!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very true, J.J. I have to interview more students to determine if they ever hear that message at school, spoken in a language kids understand. (E.g., telling kids that smoking will take years off their life after age 50 is useless, but telling them they’ll have yellow teeth, bad breath, and won’t get kissed hits close to home.)

      I know there are families who embrace education and the concept of learning for its own sake. The kids get the attitude from home. It’s harder for teachers to instill it, but a certain amount *can* be done. Even “boring” or difficult things can be taught in ways that they inspire and stick.

      Teaching students is like tuning an instrument: you have to be on the right wavelength.

      There are places in the world where kids would do anything for the opportunity to go to school. In N. America, kids *have* to and do go to school, so they not only take it for granted, but some of them see it as a burden. Kids who work fields or walk miles for water find sitting in class and learning new things a pleasure and a luxury. Kids who are interrupted from gaming, texting, and lying around at home not doing anything resent school. Kids who struggle in school or are bullied, whose needs are generally not being met, also dislike school, obviously.

      To my credit, I’ve made math geeks out of the most unlikely kids. (Can’t say how long that lasted once they moved on, but I did transform them while I had them.) I think I transferred my excitement, but I also worked heavily on their confidence, filling in knowledge holes, showing them they can succeed, and that “everything is easy when you know how to do it” (my signature line).

      Liked by 2 people

      • JJAzar says:

        Wow. This reads like doctrine. Invaluable insights, Eva! I agree, much of learning attitude comes from the home. That bit is key. And your assessment of North America is correct, as I see it. It’s an odd dynamic that has to be addressed. The US school system is not faring well, though I’ve been blessed to have attended some of the best public schools. Regardless, there is still a combative/apathetic culture even in the better-ranked schools. Oh, and I like your signature line!

        Liked by 1 person

    • My long-awaited next installments on education (Pt. 4 science) are finally posting on Tuesday and Wednesday — as two articles, 4A and 4B. I’ve really struggled putting these together — not the concepts, but the wording. I had the 5-part draft written in literally minutes, typed at the speed of light as I was pretty much on my way out the door for work. But the refinement of the wording has kept me busy for a couple of weeks.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Pt. 4A: Science Readiness — for Parents | Beyond the Precipice

  5. Pingback: Pt. 4B: Teaching Science — for Educators | Beyond the Precipice

  6. Pingback: June 2017 Roundup: Parenting and Education | Beyond the Precipice

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