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Everyday Applications of Algebra

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Everyday Applications of Algebra


Why algebra needs to be taught and learned
Amanda DeStaso

ABSTRACT
In this paper I discuss the importance of the application of algebra to real life, in order to
convince ninth graders that it is necessary for them to learn and understand it. I discuss the
issue of math anxiety and how it effects students ability to learn math. This issue can be
resolved by relating mathematics to real life scenarios, so students can see where their
knowledge is being applied. This concept is especially important for algebra. I discuss the
importance of algebra in everyday life by providing examples of applications and professions
that use the skills provided by learning algebra. Overall, I state that it is important for teachers to
know how to incorporate real life scenarios into their classroom, so that the students can see
where exactly the information they are learning can be applied. If they see the real life
applications of algebra, they will be more open to learning and understanding it.

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Everyday Applications of Algebra


Throughout my experience in high school, it was extremely common to hear students
questioning why they had to learn certain things, and complaining that they will never actually
use it after the exam. I found that this type of talk was very common within my math courses. It
is easy for students to see that English is important because we cannot survive without knowing
how to read and write, and without social studies history would repeat itself and we would be
unaware of how to avoid issues that our country and world has already overcome, and
understanding basic scientific concepts is important for environmental issues. On the other
hand, it is difficult to see the need for mathematics, specifically algebra, beyond the uses of
everyday arithmetic. It is math teacher's job to convince their students that algebra is necessary
to learn. Due to a lack of knowledge for the importance of math, students develop a fear of
mathematics, which affects their math abilities when they make it to ninth grade algebra. As
freshmen in high school, it is hard for students to see past this fear in order to realize how
necessary algebra is to their lives. In order to open their eyes to all the doors algebra opens in
life, these students need to become aware of its everyday applications.
By the time students get to ninth grade, they have been through enough math classes to
decide if they enjoy the subject or not. Unfortunately, most students develop a strong disliking
for it. As they step into their algebra classes, they are already beginning on a negative note,
questioning the relevance of this course to their lives. That is where their teacher comes in to
suppress those fears and to show them how important algebra really is. In order to take away
these fears and to make students enjoy algebra, teachers must bring passion and real world
applications of the material into the classroom.
First, the issue of math anxiety must be acknowledged before there any changes can be
made to the students outlook on mathematics. This math anxiety is influenced by students
beliefs of their own math abilities. For example, students who feel that they are good at
mathematics are less likely to express a fear of it, but those who struggle form a hatred for the

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subject. These fears often stem from previous negative learning experiences and/or their
feelings of incompetence with the subject. If a student has a bad experience in one math
course, they will most likely continue their schooling with hating the subject. This causes a
downward spiral for the students suffering from this fear. Students with high math anxiety get
lower grades and have less motivation to take math courses, and avoid taking any math that is
not required of them. The issue is The higher ones math anxiety, the lower ones math
learning, mastery, and motivation (Ashcraft & Krause, 2007, p. 245). This anxiety is triggered
when a student is required to apply math skills in both classrooms and everyday life situations.
The emotions they feel when coming in contact with math include dread, helplessness,
frustration, and fear, which results in them avoiding using math and leads to a poor mathematics
performance (Ashcraft & Krause, 2007, p. 245). It is a teachers job to get students over their
fears of math. It is important for teachers to encourage and motivate their students to do well,
and to show them that it is possible to get past a difficult problem. If the anxiety is not
suppressed, there will be no moving forward with students learning algebra. If students realize
how important algebra is in their lives, they will be more willing to put in the effort to do well and
understand the material.
In order for these fears of math to go away, students must be made aware of the
importance of algebra in their everyday lives. It is easy for students to see that arithmetic is
important for them to understand. Without it, they would not know how to deal with whole
numbers, fractions, decimals, and percentages, which are everywhere. The need for algebra
outside of school is not as obvious. Without knowing algebra, people are limited to what they
can do in life. Algebra overall serves three purposes outside of the classroom. It allows people
to solve problems more quickly and easily than without it. For example, a simple algebraic
equation can help you make a recipe smaller or when youre doing home repairs (Demme,
Ethan, 2014, p. 1). Second, the skills used in solving algebraic equations helps with problem
solving skills. It helps people think logically in order to work through issues step by step. Lastly,

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algebra is important in order to understand and critically evaluate the math done by others such
as reporters, political candidates, insurance salesmen, bank loan officers, etc. (Demme, Ethan,
2014, p. 2). If one does not understand algebra, it leaves them vulnerable to being lied to by
people trying to convince them of something with false statistics. People use the skills from
algebra every day in order to succeed. If students can be convinced that algebra is beneficial to
their future, they will be more willing to understand it and work with it for their lifetime.
Algebra is everywhere. Whether we realize it or not, we use algebra for everyday tasks,
simple or complex. The issue is, the need for algebra is just not that obvious. This leads to many
people being skeptical of why algebra is even necessary. In order to bring algebra to life,
teachers must incorporate real life examples and scenarios into the classroom. First, it is
important to emphasize how much algebra has in common with reading, writing, and arithmetic.
There are many tasks that one cannot do easily within these areas without algebra. The most
important application of algebra is that it is the language of generalizations. Thus, if you do
something once, you probably wont need algebra. But if you are doing a process again and
again, algebra provides a very simple language for describing what you are doing (Usiskin,
1995, p. 31).
The general patterns that algebra describes are formulas, which are the language of
algebra. Formulas are everywhere, whether you realize you are using them or not. For example,
there are formulas for area that come in handy if you want to know how much room you will
have, or if you are sewing and need to know how much material to use, or for mapping out the
perimeter of a fence or garden. They also play a major role in sports. One cannot calculate an
ERA in baseball, the rate at which a football quarterback throws, or the probability of a player
making two free throws in a row without formulas. Algebra is also very important when it comes
to finances. Formulas are involved in calculating income tax, discounts, and sales tax, which are
all things people come into contact with on a daily basis (Usiskin, 1995, p. 31). The applications

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of algebra in everyday life are endless, and it is very easy to see once you have a strong
foundation of the subject.
Not only does algebra help with everyday tasks, but it is also involved in different
professions, which will affect students future. Many jobs, or even programs that get people jobs,
require skills that algebra provides It is impossible to be able to understand many ideas and
concepts within topics such as chemistry, physics, earth science, economics, business,
psychology, and many other areas. These subjects are involved in a wide variety of professions,
such as engineers, accountants, marketing, architecture, doctors, and many more. Research
shows some people can change jobs thirty to forty times throughout their career, so you never
know when you may need to use algebra within your profession (Usiskin, 1995, p. 33). Without
algebra, people have to resort to others to do certain things for them, such as tasks involving
money and financial issues. This limits peoples ability to work in certain places if they do not
have a wide set of skills in those areas. It is almost impossible to grow in your profession
without having a strong foundation of algebra skills.
Some may not feel as if algebra is all that important for students to learn. It is easy for
them to just say it is not necessary and in turn, they avoid trying to understand it. Some feel that
algebra is an onerous stumbling block for all kinds of students (Hacker, 2012, p. 29). This
illustrates that, people against the need for algebra feel that todays society puts too much
emphasis on mathematics. Students who struggle with math are at a great disadvantage with
their academics and with their future of getting into colleges because of their struggle to do well
in their math courses (Hacker, 2012, p. 29). This gives them a disadvantage with getting into
the school or profession that they want, even if they do not want to do anything with math in
their future. Thus, their future is at risk, even if they are not going to college for mathematics.
This leads to people stating that algebra is only necessary for those trying to go into a
profession that is not mathematics or science. If this is not the path they plan to take, then they
should not have to take higher level math classes because it is not related to what they want to

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do with their lives. Lastly, people feel that although it is important to learn basic math skills, the
higher level math courses are not necessary for everyone. Thus, they are wasting their time in
courses that will not benefit them in their interests or future plans (Hacker, 2012, p. 29).
Although people do not see how important algebra is, they need to be made aware of its
benefits. The oppositions to learning algebra are extremely unrealistic in order for students to
succeed in life without algebra.
Although not all students like math, that does not mean they do not need it. Yes, it is
important for students to know math before entering college, which is why education put major
focus on the subject. There are many programs and resources available to help all students
succeed on the math portion of the college exams. This gives both math and non-math people
an even chance at doing well. Also, it is important for students to be taking classes that they like
in high school, but there are certain courses that have been found to be essential for students to
learn, as stated in the Common Core Standards. Algebra is one of those courses. Students can
take algebra, plus another elective class that they may enjoy more. That way they still have a
say in what courses they are taking. It would not be beneficial in producing well rounded
students if they got to pick and choose which classes they wanted to take and which they
wanted to avoid. As previously stated, algebra is incorporated in many different parts of life and
fields of work. Thus, if students are allowed to choose not to take algebra, they are put at a
disadvantage. Lastly, the most important thing is for algebra teachers to be sympathetic to the
students fears of math, and to cater to their needs. In order to make the material more relatable
and enjoyable, the teacher should incorporate real life examples so the students are able to see
where the material can be applied in their lives. This will help them form a strong foundation of
the material, which they will carry with them forever.
Mathematics is a subject that students fear due to having anxiety of the subject, which is
developed at a young age. This anxiety can be overcome through becoming more familiar with
the material through real life examples. Although it is not very clear, algebra is used every day.

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It is important in making tasks and calculations more simple, sometimes without the person
even knowing it is being used. Without knowing algebra, students miss out on many
opportunities in their life, beyond just not doing well in the class. If the algebra teacher can take
the material and show the students all the applications in society, then the students will be more
open to learning and understanding the material. Algebra is extremely necessary, and people
need to see its importance and be open to learning how to use and apply it to their lives.

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Everyday Applications of Algebra


Works Cited

Ashcraft, M. H., & Krause, J. A. (2007). Working memory, math performance, and math anxiety.
Psychonomic bulletin & review, 14(2), 243-248.
Demme, Ethan. (2014). Three Reasons Why We Learn Algebra. Demme Learning, 1-2.
Hacker, A. (2012). Is algebra necessary. New York Times, 29.
Usiskin, Z. (1995). Why is algebra important to learn. American Educator,19(1), 30-37.