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David Semitekol

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Where do you use math in your profession?

One of the most difficult challenges that math teachers face today is motivating their students. This becomes more difficult when faced with the all famous question: "What am I going to use this for?"

Help me with some real world examples of modern day math. Please let me know your profession and what type of math you use to share with our students.

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Thank you everyone so much for the contributions! They are great and I wasn't expecting such a turn out. My goal is to gain enough examples and to use them at the start of each lecture. I'm hoping that these examples in the beginning of class will spark the student's interest for the reaming of the lecture and to show that that we really do use math.

There is a difference between having to learn something and wanting to learn something. When we have to learn it we just try to get through it. When we want to learn it, this is when we make breakthroughs. Stimulate the interest in students so that they want to learn math and we increase our probability in someone discovering the next breakthrough.

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    Feb 14 2012: Ideas to help kids see the power of math is blending their mathematical learning with practical tools. I heard once of a geometry teacher who taught the use of computer-drafting software (I think it was Rhino) simultaneously with teaching geometrical axioms. Not only did the students immediately see the truth of those axioms and thereby grasp the concepts easier, but they also learned to use real-life software useful in certain careers.

    Microsoft Excel (or any spreadsheet for that matter) is another way to integrate real-world tools with mathematical education. Applying algebra to get a spreadsheet to do the calculations you want it to, or using a spreadsheet to visually represent data, is a powerful thing. I have my (2-year technical) college students use Excel regularly as a mathematical modeling tool.

    One of the most memorable examples of math education for kids I've seen is my fifth-grade teacher, who had us building model rockets and using trigonometry to estimate how high they flew. First, we would stand 100 feet away from the launchpad, sight the apogee of the rocket using a special protractor, then look up the value of the tangent of that angle (this was in 1980 -- we used trig tables rather than hand calculators) and multiply by 100 to find the rocket's height. Very cool stuff, and it took all the fear away from trigonometry when I encountered it much later in school.

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