Wednesday, February 17, 2016

When am I ever Going to Need This?

"When am I ever going to need this?"  If I had a nickel for every time a student asked me that question, well, I'd have a lot of nickels.

Today a student respectfully asked me this question and I had a truthful answer for him.  It went something like this:

Well Little Johnny, I need you to learn how to learn.  The most important thing you can graduate from high school with is the ability to learn.  So, honestly the material that I teach you isn't as important your ability to understand it.  The career you are going to have 10 years from now might not even exist yet and you will need to be able to adapt and grow in that career. 


  1. If that is the case, perhaps we should actually have a course "How to learn." Maybe some math topics would appear in the form of exercises, like "Use techniques A, B, and C to learn [math concept Y]," but it isn't at all clear that a subject-centric approach is the most effective.

  2. I will sometimes say, esp. to students going into something in health careers, that they are likely to have to figure out confusing instructions and get things exactly right, even if they don't really understand how it works. That ability to do that with, oh, those bizarre problems in "order of operations" chapters can be useful when that happens.