The above e-card is traded among internet users like a steamy hot potato of mirth. “Haha, Math Teacher,” you say as you post it to your Facebook wall, “look. Teenage me was right! I said I would never use this, and I never do.”
It’s okay – you may not be a liar. You may just be confused. Maybe you’re blinded by lingering disgust with your algebra teacher. I’ve seen him, I get it. No one should have that much exposed chest hair. And who is he kidding with that gold chain and faux skinny jeans?
But that doesn’t change the fact that, like it or not, you use algebra every day. No matter how resistant you are, it’s an omnipresent function in your life.
Let’s start with work; it doesn’t matter what your job is. If you’ve ever sat and wondered how many hours you would have to work before you could afford a whole ounce of pot, you were using algebra:
The argument that people make here is always this: “Yeah, but it’s not like I’m sitting down with a piece of paper and figuring this out. I’m not really doing algebra.”
Of course you’re not using a pencil – this is really easy math. You don’t take out your notepad and perform long division every time you want to know how many dimes are in a dollar fifty, but you’re still dividing. This is how your lounge-lizard of an algebra teacher got his job in the first place. Yeah, he’s probably as dumb as you thought.
So, when you were surmising how many days it would take to watch all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in a row, you were using algebra.
When you are trying to figure out what the MPG is on your Volkswagen Beetle in an effort to convince your girlfriend to let you trade it in for a motorcycle, you were using algebra.
You were futilely using algebra, because buddy, that is a pipedream. Your best bet is to go back in time and keep her from convincing you to buy the thing in the first place. In fact, your best best bet is to go back and get the motorcycle before your meet her at all.
And to posit the claim that you “didn’t use algebra once” today, you would, in fact, have to use algebra to assert that claim in the first place.
Algebra is probably the most useful math you’ve ever learned, once you could multiply and divide. But you can throw away your protractor because, geometry? You’ll never need that.