Algebra can be applied to almost every situation you encounter in life. Remember sitting in algebra class, trying to comprehend the concept of the all-mysterious “X”? This idea of finding an unknown may have seemed meaningless and maybe even cruel at some times, but these mathematical foundations are almost critical to everyday life. For instance, let’s take the basic example of someone trying to figure out how much gas they can afford when filling up their car. Say Peter only has $20.00 for gas and gas costs $3.50 per gallon, how many gallons would Peter be able to afford? Most likely without knowing, in this situation, Peter is trying to solve for an unknown variable. Peter remembers his seventh grade algebra teacher telling him to divide the total amount of money by the cost per gallon. These basic principles would tell him that he could afford approximately 5.7 gallons. Or let’s say Marie wants to take her daughter to Disney World, but she wants to know how much spending money she’ll have after purchasing airfare and lodging. By subtracting all the fixed values from her total available budget, Marie can have a general idea of how much money she will have left over. Most of the time, these algebraic equations aren’t dressed up in math books or put in your kids’ summer math workbook, they occur in the most relevant of life situations.
Beside for basic everyday life situations, algebra is essential for nearly all careers. Want to be a chef? A chef has to convert, add, and subtract measurements constantly. Or how about a painter? Well, how big do you want the area of your canvas to be? Hmm, or maybe a professional athlete? You’ll most likely need to understand how your stats are calculated in order to better your game. And besides, you’ll need to know how to add up all those huge paychecks somehow. As you can see, there’s really no career that does not involve the basics of math. From the time algebra was being researched by the Greeks to current day research, the concept of algebra has grown to new depths. What started off as figuring out how to solve linear equations has transformed into current day physicists trying to delve deeper into the concept of vectors. The topic of algebra has grown from more simplistic to abstract. In the work force today, there is great range of how algebra is used. For example, anyone who enters data into a system needs to use algebraic expressions to input data into spreadsheets on the computer. In a more advanced scenario, computer scientists are configuring algorithms to help perform programs. And in an even more advanced situation, NASA workers are using algebra to understand a shuttle’s flight trajectory. For instance, as shown in recent news, the Curiosity rover, that just landed on the planet Mars, required a tremendous amount of algebra. From the computers, transportation system, and communication system located on the rover, the amount of algorithms and programming is tremendous. The flight trajectory of the rover had to be tracked intensely for the eight months it was traveling to Mars. There is no doubt that without the basic understanding of algebra, the Mars rover could not have been built, let alone function.
With all the different outlets available for algebra, the understanding of algebra is critical to the success of one’s future. Even the most right-brain oriented jobs require the use of algebra. So the next time your child walks through the door after school exclaiming, “Why do I even need this stuff?!”, remind them how the most simple of math equations can show up anywhere. Because who knows, they might need it to figure out how much gas they can afford, or maybe even program the next rover to Mars.