Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Aha! Cops need math too!

In the episode "Falling" of season 19 of Law & Order, detective Lupo said "Who needs math?, I told my teachers. I'm gonna be a cop." Detective Lupo was studying financial reports to find out a possible motive to solve a murder case. He was having difficulties understanding the mathematics involved in the financial reports and he was regreting the fact that he did not pay careful attention in math classes during his schooling years.

Why I find interesting this scene of Law & Order? Well, this scene demonstrates the typical attitude many students show when learning mathematics. Many students quickly become desinterested learning mathematics if they cannot find an immediate practical use or real-life application for what they are learning. Unfortunately, not every math concept or skill has a practical or real-life application. In many instances, there will be math concepts and skills that are only necessary to grasp more complex or advance math concepts.

There are also those students who often assume there are certain careers (e.g. law enforcement) that do not require mathematical knowledge to perform and excel. However, students who can develop their mathematical skills will also be developing their ability to be critical thinkers and problem solvers. To my knowledge, there are always problems or issues to solve in every career or job, and employers are always looking for those who can solve these problems and issues. Let's not forget that life is also full of challenges that we need to overcome, and those with the critical thinking and problem solving skills are usually the ones who struggle the least overcoming the challenges. They work smarter not harder!

We should avoid minimizing the critical role that mathematics play in our lives solely based on if we can apply it in real-life or not. It is not always possible to forsee the ramifications and uses of the math knowledge we acquire. Today, it may seem useless to learn about a particular math concept or skill, but tomorrow, that same concept or skill could be the difference for becoming successful or not in whatever endeavors we pursue. Therefore, we should view learning mathematics as an important exercise to become better critical thinkers and problem solvers. Otherwise, we will probably regret (the same way as detective Lupo did in the Law & Order episode) for our poor decisions to minimize the role mathematics play in our lives.

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