Algebra

Every time I see something like this, I want to smack the person who posted it. (I would not, because I’m reasonably good at impulse control. You’re welcome.) Especially when said person is an intelligent, well-educated adult whose responsibilities frequently include dealing with complex situations s/he has never encountered before, and who prides him/herself on having dealt with such events in a reasonably successful manner.

Okay, you didn’t sit down with a line of numbers and symbols, with the = sign in the middle of it, and you didn’t look for x without quite understanding y.

But if you’ve had to deal with a previously unknown problem, and you met it through an ordered series of steps, investigating what would happen in one area if you eliminated or added something to a different part of the scenario, and you noted the steps you took so you could apply a similar method to future problems–guess what? You Used Algebra.

Or at least you used the mental habits you practiced when you took algebra. Fiddling around with the numbers was not the important thing, even if it was the thing which meant passing or failing the class.

Developing mental agility, and practicing until it became intuitive, was the important thing.

Only people living exceptionally sheltered, narrow, protected lives do not do this. Only people who are too literal-minded to see larger pictures (and I fear, I see this meme too often out of so-called progressive religious leaders) do not recognize this. Every smart thing you do involves some kind of algebra, even if not literally solving equations. Every dumb thing you do ignores it.

The third dumbest thing you do is to think you aren’t using what you learned in algebra class. The next dumbest is to be proud of it.

The top-of-the-list dumbest is to announce to the world how smart you are even though you somehow get away without using algebra.

So, wipe those smug grins off your faces, and write a note of apology and thanks to your high school mathematics department.

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