That question is: "When will I use simultaneous equations/ the laws of indices/ completing the square in real life?"

A good maths teacher, of course, would have a bank of answers to such questions. "Satellite dishes are in the shape of a parabola!" etc. Urgh.

Even though I do happen to know a few applications of algebraic principles to "real life" (picture me making air quotes with my fingers), I never tell these to my students. I refuse.

First of all - real life? I'm sorry, are my maths lessons not real? When you enter room 204, are you entering some kind of alternate universe? Is a maths lesson merely a state of mind? Some kind of lucid dream that

*looks*real and*feels*real, but can't possibly be real because instead of English the teacher is speaking in an alpha-numeric jumble?
Secondly, where did students (and, for that matter, teachers) get the absurd idea that everything one learns has to have some kind of practical "use"? Can't we simply enjoy learning maths for its own sake? Does everything we do have to have a useful purpose? What kind of depressing life would that be?

Maths is beautiful. It is deep and interesting. It is a language. It is an art. It is a self-contained world with its own rules, patterns, and mysteries. So don't try to spoil my beautiful maths with your ugly "applications".

I will leave you with some profound quotes from mathematician G H Hardy:

"Pure mathematics is on the whole distinctly more useful than applied. For what is useful above all is technique, and mathematical technique is taught mainly through pure mathematics".

“Imaginary’ universes are so much more beautiful than this stupidly constructed ‘real’ one; and most of the finest products of an applied mathematician’s fancy must be rejected, as soon as they have been created, for the brutal but sufficient reason that they do not fit the facts.”

"I have never done anything 'useful'. No discovery of mine has made, or is likely to make, directly or indirectly, for good or ill, the least difference to the amenity of the world."

Of course G H Hardy was wrong with that last one - his work was actually widely applied to genetics and thermodynamics. But the point is, that wasn't

*why*he did it. And he didn't need these applications as motivation for producing this work.
Do you agree with me or are you someone who sees maths as a "tool" with which to get things done?

Emma x x x