Answering “Why Do We Have to Learn This?”

“I’m never going to use this in real life”, students say. What they really mean is, “This is hard and I don’t want to do it!” When students say this, I try to tell them about really cool jobs that use whatever we are currently learning – although it is usually difficult math.

One of the jobs I tell them about is airplane safety engineers. If birds fly into the engine of a plane, it could cause the engine to stop and the plane to crash and so airplane safety engineers design planes so that this won’t happen. Instead of the bird getting caught in the engine, the engine needs to be strong enough to chop the bird up and spit it out the back. So after the engineers design the plane and it is built, they keep the plane on the ground and start the engines. Then they take an air canon and shoot dead chickens out of the canon at the engine. If the engine chops them up, the plane is safe. Most students, especially intermediate boys, love this and hopefully I’ve inspired them enough to do the math!

I often tell students about being a auto journalist to inspire them to write – driving a new cool car every week sounds fun! There are many fun jobs out there that students often have never heard of – and I find this often helps them get over the feeling that it’s useless to learn.

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