Math Isn’t Fun, and That’s Okay

I have a real problem with the way that people try to convince children to learn math.  There’s an odd idea that we should tell children that math is fun to encourage them to learn it, but that’s not how math works.  Math isn’t fun – math is useful.  A better tract is to focus on how math is useful.

A long time ago, people were able to learn the basics of measurement from home economics, leaving the science classes only the details like “Measure water from the bottom of the meniscus for the most precise measurement”.  When you were baking a cake, it was much easier to pay attention because at the end of the class your cake was only as good as you made it (at least, I imagine they got to eat the cake).

Shop class worked the same way.  It is much easier to understand and apply the lessons you learn in geometry if you have a course where you learn that it lets you build useful things.

Managing a bank account is a skill that everyone needs to have to get by in life, but good luck doing that if you don’t understand basic math.  Add, subtract, multiply, and divide only go so far, because you pay interest on your loans and you need to make sure it’s right.

We study painting, theater, and sports because they are fun.  Math isn’t fun, and it doesn’t need to be.  That’s not why we do math, and the children catch the lie very quickly anyway.  Math is useful, but all the practicality of it has been pushed out of our schools, leaving the children asking “When are we ever going to use this?”  Having more practical classes in our schools will cut down on those problems.

We need to stop lying to ourselves and telling people that math is fun when it mostly isn’t.  It makes people misunderstand why they are doing it at all.


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