It's a topic of conversation that's been around for generations, something every student has asked themselves or their friends many times: "Why don't we learn something that actually matters in the real world?" 

Regardless of phrasing, almost every student has felt this way at some point. Even once you're well beyond your high school years, it doesn't take a lot of Facebook scrolling to inevitably find a post from an adult bringing this up as well, usually in the form of a meme like,  "So glad I learned trigonometry in high school, really helping during this tax season."

Unless you're specifically going into that field for work, like an engineer studying physics in high school, it's unlikely that you would use physics in your daily life. In fact, even some high school teachers admit you may not use much of what you learn in school directly in real life, so what's the point?

Strathmore High School (SHS) math teacher Doran Davidson explained for him, it's not just teaching the specific math subject, but the skills that develop alongside it.

"To me, math is the life skill. Not the math itself, but the solving of a problem in a math classroom. There isn't a job out there where critical thinking isn't a crucial part of the conversation," Davidson said.

"Everything you do in life is problem-solving. Everything you do is 'here is some information, here is what I need, how do I get from here to there?' And that's all we ever do in a math classroom."

SHS science teacher Michelle Ledene expanded on this, saying the benefits of what you learn in a classroom go well beyond just the source material.

"I think that a lot of the skills we teach is not just in being a good student, but those successful traits that we teach: good work ethic, being able to stay focused on a task, using your time wisely, that's going to be great regardless of what position you're in," Ledene said.

While students are often quick to complain that what they're learning is "useless," as practical applications in day-to-day life may be slim or non-existent, what do they think now that the reasoning behind why you learn these subjects is known? While the responses were mixed, grade 12 student Tamzyn Musselman says it helps to know the "why" behind what she learns, but still finds it difficult to justify learning some of it.

"It changes my perspective a little bit because he (Davidson) is a teacher and he does try and do things for students to make them excel in life, but for me, it just doesn't do much for me. I understand why (I learn things like trigonometry), I just probably won't use math very much," Musselman said.

Musselman hopes to pursue English and journalism in post-secondary schooling, which for her is a primary reason why she doubts she'll use math frequently. She added she definitely sees the value in learning specific subjects for students pursuing that in post-secondary though. Fellow grade 12 student Isaac Taylor had a similar sentiment.

"Trigonometry is not completely relevant to our future, but I think that's a very good point about problem-solving and training your brain to think in a certain way," he said. 

There's no doubt students will continue to feel frustrated at what they may feel are useless subjects, learning why these are taught certainly helps in pushing through them even when it's difficult.

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