Why Do I Need to Learn _______?

A mathematics lecture, apparently about linear...My daughter currently teaches math to high school students, and as one of the most common questions she is asked; ‘why do I need to know this?’

It is a fundamental question which does imply a value to specific topics of learning. The student wants the teacher to convince them it is necessary to learn something which after all appears to be of little to no value to the person asking the question.

Mathematics is an abstract science just as language is to sound. Since it doesn’t have direct physical properties it may be more difficult for some to understand. Mathematics is the basis of understanding everything in the universe even though you can’t discover it under a rock or capture it in the air. It isn’t a physical object but every known physical object as well as yet to be discovered phenomena require an understanding of math.

The student who enjoys their digitized compact music player would neither have the player or the content if the inventor(s) didn’t know how to create it and they did so through the applied use of math.

We make a decision on how our life proceeds based on our willingness to learn. If we choose to ignore many of the learning opportunities in our life we wall ourself off from growing as an individual. The only reason why we have the vast array of convenient products and services available at our whim is because someone knew how to create them and that was through their efforts to learn and understand.

Math trains our mind to think logically and how to learn. If mankind didn’t learn then we would still be scraping by competing with much more powerful animals for our daily existence. Understanding math and science is the basic foundation in which we build a civilized society.

A frequent challenge to education is the disclaimer by a student sometimes reinforced by parent that the subject as taught was impossible to learn because the teacher failed to engage the student in a manner which would promote learning. Certainly we have all had good and bad teachers but the learning equation is slanted toward perpetuating ignorance if the student must be cajoled or entertained into involving their own mind.

Perhaps the single greatest barrier toward learning and discovery is that of perceived value. The student along with their peers may see learning unpopular topics as an obstacle to their happiness and enjoyment in life. Nothing could be further from the truth. The effort required upfront at each moment there is an opportunity to learn pays off with a lifetime of happiness through accomplishment and also increased income. As the colloquial expression suggests; the cost of learning is high however the cost of ignorance is higher.


Khan Academy ~ a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.

Free Online Tutoring ~ get your educational materials for free.

Free Documentaries.org ~ full-length documentary films free of charge.

Permission to Make – Adam Savage ~ a short video on learning to make things.

The Poetry of Science: Richard Dawkins and Neil Tyson ~ 1 hour 17 minute video on science and understanding the universe in which we live. It’s worth the time to watch.