Unwitting Use of Algebra

Being a math teacher would get very tired hearing that ignorant old chestnut…”When will I ever use this in my life?” (say it in your head with a whiny teenager’s voice).

I Love Math

Just because it doesn’t show up in an algebraic expression of 2x+3y=31 doesn’t mean you didn’t use algebra.  The concepts of algebra are prevalent in your daily computations more than you might realize.

Have you ever had to make the decision whether to get gas at your local station which is more expensive, or spend time and gas to go to a station that’s further away, but cost a lot less per gallon?  Especially if you factor in the inconvenience quotient of going to the further location, you are using algebraic concepts to make that determination.

Ever try to buy ingredients for a recipe in a grocery store while trying to cut the recipe in half…figuring out how many cans of kidney beans that go into that chili isn’t going to figure itself out without some kind of algebraic logic.

Don’t get me wrong…the rigor of taking all the factors involved in a decision and putting them in an algebraic expression and then charting that out so you get the maximum solution…that would be excessive (for some people)…but you still use the concepts of algebra in so many areas of your life.

One of my favorite intuitive uses of math came at work years ago for me.  We had surveyed a number of insurance companies for their salaries for various common insurance jobs…claims representative, rate clerk, etc. and we were trying to establish a way of determining what the average industry salary was for any specific level of competence in a specific job.  My boss came to me and said, I have all this data, but what do I do with it?  I told her we needed to do a scatter graph of the data and find a trend line using multiple regression analysis and it would give us the algorithm we needed to come up with an average salary for any level of competence.

I honestly surprised myself…she asked me how I knew that and I couldn’t really say…I just did.  Fortunately, Microsoft Excel had this functionality built into its software back then and we were able to quickly and easily come up with a useable calculation based on industry averages.

I’m not even sure if my methods were correct for this…or if there was a better way to do it…but I was amazed at how easily the concepts of how I could figure this out came to me based on years of good math teaching in school.

Learning math concepts is not what students find most daunting.  Understanding how and when to apply them is the hard part about mathematics, so when someone says they’ll never use a math concept, having examples of where the concept is used in real life situations makes it easier to understand the applicability.

You can wake up now…I’m about to discuss knitting.

Current Knitting

Despite having to drive my mom to a few appointments this past weekend where I would have thought I’d have completed a lot of knitting, I really didn’t do much.

I didn’t make any progress on The Brethren Sock, I made minimal progress on the Knitted Sheet.  And I started a swatch for using the Briar Rose Wistful yarn.


I love the Briar Rose Yarn, but I’m not thrilled with the fabric of this swatch.  I’m thinking I need a tighter gauge, and I haven’t had any inspiration regarding the sweater design using this yarn yet.  I’m thinking about doing a pullover with a neckline like a previous project I called the Stranded Sweater.

I ended up stepping down the center of the lighter rectangle, leaving an opening at the neck.  But I have no idea what this quarter-zip/no-zipper opening would be called.

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