(In a couple of months I will be speaking at a Math Teachers conference here in a Ohio, I'm sure most of you can't go so I thought I would write a little about one of the things I will be talking about)
A lot of people think my lessons are built to answer "When am I ever going to use this?" - they’re not. Don’t get me wrong, my lessons can answer this question, but this question is not one I am really too concerned about answering. The true answer to the above question is “You might not" or "You probably won’t” if we are being honest. I have never used the Pythagorean Theorem outside of the classroom. Once again, that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t find a reason to use it; the reality is reasons to use it just don’t come up. I encourage you to tell your students this on the first day of school. Is that a scary thought? For sure. However, you need to follow it up by telling them that although you are not concerned with this question, what you are concerned about is showing them what we use math to do - help explain and better understand the world around us. That’s what I created my lessons to do.
Students are not going to be sitting around someday and decide to write a probability problem and solve it about what song is going to come up next when they shuffle their iPod. BUT, they have thought to themselves before 'what are the chances...' when shuffling. So, by using my lessons and MATH you can show them what they can learn, interpret, and predict with their iPod’s shuffling feature. Or they might never use ratios when talking about music, but using the lesson will allow them to experience how math can help them describe why a song’s chorus get’s stuck in their head.
That’s what I hope you do with my lessons. I have no problem with you using my lessons and saying: “See, here is where you will use this in life.” Feel free. However, I would LOVE it if you say: “See, look what math helped us discover. Without math we may have never thought of it this way…” Training students to see math as a tool that helps them gain insights into things is much more beneficial than showing them where math can pop up.
I guess it is all a matter of perspective.