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When Will I Ever Use Algebra?

Katie Pennington | April 2, 2020

“When will I ever use Algebra?” I’ve heard that question so many times, from not only students but parents also. Each time I hear it, I am reminded that this is a serious question that needs to be answered. Instead of just giving some overcast, cloudy answer like, “every day,” I am going to answer this question with real, tangible answers. Answers that will leave you understanding why algebra is so important, and when your child will use it.

Before I get started with the everyday uses of algebra, I want to first talk about how important it is to study hard concepts that stretch our minds. The first impression we get when we hear the word, ‘algebra,’ is usually something like, “yuck.” Ninety-nine percent of the reactions I get when I tell people I teach algebra is, “wow! I hate math.” When I dig a little further and ask why they hate math, it’s usually something about it being hard, and they didn’t understand it. We tend to shy away from things that are hard and stick to things that are easier. But, studying hard things is actually very good for our minds. Dr. Daniel G. Amen explains how this process works.

“Each time you learn something new and practice it, your brain will either change the structure of its neurons (cells) or increase the number of synapses between your neurons, allowing them to send and receive information faster.”

We can apply this concept to algebra, and say that when we learn algebra, we are literally changing, stretching, and growing our brains.
Another reason that I encourage the study of algebra is because of its consistency. Many of the subjects in school change frequently as more things are discovered, but I love math because of its reliability. Two plus two will always equal four. The consistency we find in math will also teach us more and more about God. God is consistent and never changing. As we learn more about math, it gives us a small glimpse into the consistency of our Lord. French mathematician, Andre Weil, once said, “God exists since mathematics is consistent, and the Devil exists since we cannot prove it.” This is an interesting thought and provokes us to dive deeper into the challenge of learning mathematics and applying it to God’s existence.

Now that I’ve covered the importance of learning algebra to stretch our minds, and teach us more about God, let’s cover where we use algebra in our everyday life. It may surprise you that everyone, everywhere uses algebra every day, even if they don’t know it.

Here are 5 examples:

  1. Cooking: Have you ever had to double or half a recipe? To do those proportions, you are using algebra. Also, converting from cups to tablespoons, teaspoons to tablespoons, etc. is using algebra
  2. Shopping: So many times, when we go shopping, we look for discounts. When you go shopping and see a 50% off sale, you automatically do the algebra to figure out how much you are saving.
  3. Home Improvement: Every time you paint a room you must figure out how much paint you need. You measure the walls and figure out the area of the room. This is algebra. This same logic can be used on floorings, ceilings, backsplashes, landscaping, etc.
  4. Finances: Any time we deal with money, algebra is involved. Loans, investments, budgeting, etc. all use algebra to convert principles, interest, and earnings.
  5. Filling up the gas tank: I have $30 to fill up the tank and gas is $2.50 a gallon. How much gas can I get? You divide it out and find you can get about 12 gallons of gas (not counting tax). This is an algebra problem.

So, you can see, that we use algebra often, even when we don’t even realize we are using it. Believe it or not, you’ve been learning algebra ever since you were a baby, and taking algebra in high school just builds upon the knowledge that you already have.

One of my favorite quotes is from Nikolai Lobachevsky, who said, “There is no branch of mathematics, however abstract, which may not some day be applied to phenomena of the real world.” Studying algebra has real, tangible benefits, and can shape the future of your child. It doesn’t matter what your child wants to be when he grows up, because studying algebra will stretch his mind, teach him more about God, and allow him to do many things in his everyday life.

Maybe you want your child to study algebra, but you just don’t feel like you will be able to teach it. I teach live, online, interactive, graded classes for pre-algebra, algebra 1 and 2, geometry, and pre-calculus through Apologia Live Classes.
About the Author:
Mrs. Pennington received her Bachelor of Arts in Natural Sciences/Mathematics from Thomas Edison State University. She has over two years of experience in tutoring high school physics and advanced mathematics. She was homeschooled, and used Apologia science throughout high school, along with Saxon math. She has been married to her husband for 5 years, and they have a little girl named Layla. She has been saved by the grace of Jesus Christ and grows more and more in love with Him every day. In her free time, Katie enjoys photography, teaching Sunday school at her church, Bible study, and enjoying nature.