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]]>Math instructors, in public, private, and home schools teach many different methods of approaching mathematics. This is normal and, in fact, healthy, as the diverse methods of looking at a concept are each unique and work for different people better than others. However, there is one aspect that is detrimental and damaging to a student's education. This problem is shortcutting. Many teachers teach "shortcuts"-- methods to get the same answer by cutting across the process and plugging numbers into an equation mindlessly. Let me explain why this is a problem.

All of us like solving problems quickly. If we have an equation we can plug numbers into and get an answer, that is quite handy. However, there is a fine line between handy and destructive. Let us take the quadratic formula, for example.

This may seem like a random formula that popped randomly into some geeky mathematician's mind and he wrote it down and it works for all humanity. That's not true. All these formulas have an underlying story of what is actually being done. The problem here is that some teachers may teach the shortcut *first*. This leads most students to solving an equation by plugging into that formula but never understanding *why* it works. This can prove fatal later in their math career when they need to begin applying those skills in different ways. This is why the students must also learn the "story beneath the formula".

Now, there is a way to correct this and to compromise these two methods to make one strong and helpful method of learning math. That is, teaching what's actually happening in the process of solving the equation **before** teaching the shortcut. After the teachers embed the raw process in the students' brains, then the teacher can proceed to teach some "shortcuts" in solving the equation faster, still with an explanation of *why* the shortcuts serve as a valid way to come up with the same answer.

To conclude, shortcuts, in and of themselves are not evil. However, if they are taught too prematurely with no basis explanation of what's actually happening, they are harmful. For more information, tune in on Monday, May 29th at 12 PM Mountain Time on Facebook Live for a live video explaining more about this blog post. You can find the video here after the event.

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]]>At some point in your life, you might have been quietly working on your Algebra homework when you stop and ask that question which many middle and high school students ask: “Why is Math so important, anyway? Why do I have to do this, night after night, month after month, year after year? Why?” You may think: “Well, if I was planning to go to Harvard and be a scientist or a doctor, Algebra might be important. But what if I want to be an artist? A musician? An actor? Do I need to know how to solve functions and factor equations then?”

First of all, regardless of what career you are pursuing, math is important in the college admissions process. If you plan to go to a college or university of any kind, most require students to take at least 2-3 years of math. In addition, having a good knowledge of math can help you on your standardized tests such as the SAT, also important in college admissions. In fact, the College Board (www.collegeboard.com) says that students who took geometry in high school have about an 80% chance of attending college, regardless of things such as race or religion.

Your math skills can also help you once you get into a college, as most schools which require General Education classes to be taken will also require a quarter or semester of math.

But now you may be saying, “Ok, math helps you get into college. But still, what if I don’t want to be an astronaut or an accountant? Does math matter then?” Yes. Most jobs require employees to have some basic math knowledge, even if it is not central to the occupation. The College Board also says math can positively impact your career even if you don’t become something that focuses on math. For example, even basic math provides you with logic and critical thinking skills, as well as the skills to solve problems and recognize patterns and relationships. These skills are essential for the workplace, no matter the field.

To sum up, math is important in the college admissions process, college itself, as well as your future career as it provides you with skills that are very beneficial in any area of work.

Information taken from the following sources:

http://learningpath.org/articles/Why_Math_is_So_Important.html

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