When students ignore the importance of study skills because “we’re never going to use this in real life,” I tell them about the time I was programming a video game for fun. Early in college, I was working on a video game where a boulder would fly out of a stick figure’s hand when you hit the space bar (by boulder I mean large circle). The arrow keys pointed the stick figure’s arm in different directions (by arm I mean straight line). The problem was if you pressed any arrow key too long the arm would extend out forever. So I needed to enter in a formula that would tell the computer it was OK to spin the arm around and not OK for the arm to reach out into infinity.
I ended up using the Pythagorean Theorem to solve the problem. (Just in case you don’t remember, it’s the formula used to calculate the legs of a right triangle.) Then it hit me, “Crap, I actually used the Pythagorean Theorem in real life.”
Then another realization hit me, “Writing in ancient PASCAL programming language to make large circles appear out of a straight line on my monitor isn’t real life. It’s probably the furthest thing from it.” Which continues to beg the question, if you really are never going to use a lot of what you learn in school anywhere in your life, ever, why spend all that time with it? Most students spend years on the Pythagorean Theorem. How come? What’s the reason why?
Well, let’s compare all that time a student works with that theorem with lifting weights. When you lift weights, you end up developing your muscles. Though it’s not likely you’re going to have to use those exact weights daily to survive (unless you’re a trainer or physical therapist). In the same way, working with theorems help you develop mental muscles. Though it’s not likely you’re going to have to use those exact theorems daily to survive (unless you’re a math teacher). Instead of working with solid weights to build physical muscle, you are working with abstract ideas