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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

YOU MAY FORGET WHAT YOU LEARN JUST DON'T FORGET HOW TO THINK

YOU MAY FORGET WHAT YOU LEARN JUST DON'T FORGET HOW TO THINK


At my age I have forgotten way more than I have ever learned and I think the ratio of forgotten to learned is increasing. 

Why do we need to learn stuff that we probably will never use?  This is a question I ask myself today especially with regards to new technology.  It is a question virtually every teenager asks his parents while struggling with plain geometry, physics or Spanish 1. 

The standard parental answer is

1.    You don’t know yet what you will need to know at your age.

2.    Learning these things teaches you how to think.

Both of these answers will not register with your teenager.

My son played baseball in high school.  The field they played on was a perfect square.  It was 300 feet down each foul line and therefore 300 feet from either foul pole to dead center field.  The distance to centerfield was listed as 350 feet.  Many a long fly ball to dead center failed to reach the fence.  The players on the team were convinced dead center was deeper than 350 feet.  The coach said no.

When my son mentioned this to me my immediate response was, “I thought you said you would never use anything you learned in geometry.”

“Huh”

“Draw a line from home plate to center field.  You have a right triangle.  The distance down the right field line (a) is 300 feet.  The distance from the right field foul pole to dead center (b) is the same as the distance from home to the left field foul pole 300 feet.  The distance of the line from home to dead center (c) can be determined by that formula you thought you would never use: a2 + b2 = c2.  So 90000 + 90000 = 180000 and the square root of 180000 is about 424 feet.  Tell your coach the distance to dead center based on the formula a2 + b2 = c2.” is 424 feet not 350 feet.”

The next day I asked my son “Is the coach going to change the center field marker to 424 feet?”

“Nope.”

“Why not?”

“He says he don’t care about no a2 + b2 = c2.  If the sign says it is 350 feet to dead center then it is 350 feet to dead center.”

“Well” I told him, “Now in addition to finding out that you can actually use what you learn in school, your coach has demonstrated why it is also important to  learn how to think.”     

7 comments:

  1. That's a cute story that illustrates the point of learning exactly!

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  2. Oh shit my daughter is soooo screwed...

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  3. thinking is the hardest thing to do...that is why so few people do it.

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  4. I had so forgotten that formula! LOL! But I have never forgotten how to think...

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  5. I love the way you think!! At the moment I'm trying to remember all that unused maths to help my 8 year old with her homework..."mum!!...how many axis of symmetry does a trapezium have??..." I'm not looking forward to calculus....again!!

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