maths – the subject everyone loves to hate


Today, most students came out of the Maths leaving cert exam (paper 1) upset and angry at what many felt was the toughest paper on record, at least at higher level. Maths for me was my worst subject and it still is (but luckily i no longer have to be examined on it!). Here’s my two cents on just how useful it is in it’s current state…

Real world examples please

People will disagree and say that maths is essentially problem solving, but i don’t think it is. Problem solving is problem solving. Having the ability to solve equations is no good in the real world unless you can substitute numbers and letters for real world items. That might be a very minor step to some, but for me that ‘real world’ part is very important. I need it for things to make sense. It’s makes the whole purpose of maths ‘click’ for me.

I didn’t really get maths or take any interest in it at all until we got business related questions or later on in college, programming related questions. That’s when math made sense for me. Because there was a link there with the real world. The equations and problems weren’t any easier than for the leaving cert, i just understood the end goal better and understood that in order to reach it, i did indeed have to solve a complicated real world problem.

Just to give you an example of the type of stuff a leaving cert student has to do at higher level, here’s a question from today’s higher level paper….

q8 maths

To me,  that is just jibberish. I’m sure it makes sense and has some kind of practical value but we haven’t been told in the question what that value is. So to me, it’s a pile of numbers, letters, brackets and fractions combined. Very interesting 🙄

I’m the sort of person who would ‘get’ that in class and understand it all when it’s explained (so ability isn’t the problem) but because i have no interest whatsoever in it and can’t see any value in it i’d forget the lot as soon as i leave the room because i’d ask myself “when will i ever use or need this again?”.

I’d imagine most leaving cert students feel the same way, the stats would suggest they do with continuously falling numbers taking higher level papers every year. I’m lucky in the sense that i’ve been through this and picked up a degree in what is regarded as a maths based area, despite the fact i hate maths.

But like i said, at least at college level, there are real world problems to be solved and not just ‘fake’ problems which make people question the sense in solving them. I still maintain this guy should have gotten full marks for answering the question correctly, all be it creatively…

Who needs Pythagoras' theorem?Creative Commons License photo credit: dullhunk

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