There are a few moments in our lives when we know that we have made a real difference in the way someone looks at the world. This happened to me a few weeks ago, as I was helping an 8th grade boy understand algebra. We finished working on a problem and he turned to me and asked, “Will I ever use this?” I smiled and answered his question with another question. I asked him if he would pay someone money to wash his dishes.
He looked at me with a blank stare for a few seconds and finally said no. Then I asked him why he wouldn’t pay someone to wash his dishes. He answered that he could wash them himself, and therefore he didn’t need to pay anyone. So I had one more question for him. I asked him if he had enough money, but not enough time, how much would he pay someone to wash his dishes? He told me he would not pay that person very much money because it was an easy job.
I looked at him, smiled, and told him that if he didn’t want to use math in his job he could always wash dishes for a living. I also told him that math is a skill that is very coveted, and that careers in which an employee uses their math skills pay incredibly well. I let him know that if he works hard right now and masters mathematics, he would have a skill that can open doors and generate opportunities in his future. I saw the light bulb turn on, and a smile slowly took over his face!