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What's the Point of Trigonometry?

Why do I need to learn this exactly?

Teacher and child doing maths on a blackboard

‘Why do they teach us some of this maths stuff and what is the point of Trigonometry? It’s not like I’m ever going to use it.’

‘Who cares if I can circle a verb or a noun in a sentence? It’s not useful, I can still read, when am I gonna use this in real life? What a waste of time.’

You may have heard similar words come out the mouths of your own children or can probably expect to hear similar at some point in the future. You probably even agree with them in part, and right now you’re casting your mind back to those things you were taught at school that you feel were for all intents and purposes, pointless.

Boy shrugging shoulders

Fair Point

Now it’s true that there are many things you would have been taught at school that you do not use directly, which if you think about it makes sense. School teaches you a wide array of skills and knowledge to both prepare you for your future as well as expose you to things which may interest you and which you might need.

However, as it’s often unlikely that each child knows what they’ll be doing in the future, it’s hard to tailor the teaching and learning experience for individuals that early in life. It’s why curriculum is diverse and allows students to narrow the subjects they take as they get older and have a better idea of their strengths and interests.


But there’s another layer to this concept that’s worth explaining to your children. It’s usually best to use an analogy to explain this, ideally one that the child has an interest in. So let’s look at football for an example. It’s a sport that requires mastering many different skills such as passing, shooting, dribbling, catching, throwing and being coordinated, as well as communication with team mates and coaches both verbally and non-verbally. Some of the skills are obvious whilst others such as communicating non-verbally are not, even though they are hugely beneficial.

Now some skills are specific to that particular game whilst others are more universal or transferable. Running for example can be applied to other sports and activities. Chances are that things learned as children from climbing trees, playing tag, playing with toys, to working in small groups on a science experiment or measuring angles in maths have all contributed in some way to making a successful footballer, even though many of the skills honed could not be identified as being relevant years earlier.

You see all of those activities from an early age developed the muscles, the nervous system, the reaction time, the finesse and a raft of other important factors.

Teenage girls soccer team

Make that Link

The brain is similar. Learning to read, identify verbs, choosing metaphors, working out the area of a circle, the perimeter of an irregular shape all have purpose. Even knowing the difference between covalent and ionic bonding and yes, trigonometry, hone the brain and the thought processes and the ability to problem solve.

Pushing learning outside of the comfort zone and being challenging will help a brain to be able to tackle even more complex tasks in the same way that pushing levels of physical activity increase muscle and stamina.

Teenagers in science class

And You Thought it Was pointless

Those nouns and verbs you had to identify in text you thought was pointless. Well, finding those patterns and understanding the way sentences and text are constructed will enhance the same thought processes that go towards identifying and fixing errors of code in software programming, or helping to understand complex legal documents

School children working on robotics project

It Makes Sense After All

So why learn Trigonometry? Because every thing we learn, from birth to now helps build us and develop us in ways which sometimes we don’t even know we need. Developing a love of learning or at least appreciating that all learning is valuable is a great mindset to have. Understanding why you learn what you learn is also more likely to foster intrinsic motivation for learning you things.

Be positive, teach your kids to never stop learning, never stop questioning and view all learning as a challenge to be conquered, as the skills they learn now will set the foundation for their future success.

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