10 reasons for studying algebra

Sometimes it can seem hard work studying algebra.  Hopefully at least some of the reasons below will help convince you that it is worthwhile in the end!

1. Algebra will help you in your career

The fact is that you can’t get a good grade in your mathematics GCSE without some algebra.   Getting a good maths GCSE opens up more career choices, access to college, university and some apprenticeships.  If you study algebra beyond GCSE all the evidence shows that A-level maths and mathematical degrees help you earn more than you would otherwise.  So algebra helps you earn more and gives you more chance of being able to choose a career which you enjoy.  (Just take a look at the hundreds of career profiles of people who took maths to a more advanced level!)

trianglearea2. Algebra is a powerful tool

One of the main reasons for algebra is that it allows you to take a situation and make it more general.  For example take the humble triangle – because of algebra we have a formula which tells us the area of every triangle in the world.    A=\frac{1}{2}\times b \times h (area equals  times base times height).  Formulae are powerful as they tell us rules which work in every single situation.  Formulae have been discovered ranging from simple things like the area of a circle to Einstein's famous formula for energy: E=mc^2 .  Formulae impact us in every area of our lives, from the price of our energy bills to how much getting a mortgage will cost.

3. Algebra helps you think logically

Studying algebra helps your mind to think logically and break down and solve problems.  One day you might reach a point where you don't use algebra on a daily basis.  However your brain will have been trained to think in a logical way, which will not only help you in the workplace, but also in daily life, when choosing which mobile phone contract to select, or trying to work out if you have paid the right amount of tax.

Radio telescope facility4. Modern technology needs algebra

The fact is that all modern technology relies on mathematics and algebra - Google, the internet, mobile phones, satellites and digital televisions wouldn’t exist without algebra.  You are relying on other people having studied algebra when you use a phone or play a computer game and as technology is everywhere more and more people are needed to work behind the scenes with knowledge of mathematics and algebra.  If you like algebra, then you are giving yourself a chance of getting a job in the rapidly expanding technology sector.

5. Algebra is a challenge which is worth facing

Let's face it - algebra can be hard and there will be a point for everyone when they find using algebra difficult. However algebra can also give a great sense of achievement and for those who become good at it in school, it can give a real feeling of satisfaction every time a problem is solved.  In fact algebra can easily become the favourite area of mathematics for some pupils!  Even it is a real challenge to you at school, try and talk to someone who struggled to get a grade C but finally managed it, or someone who has gone back to study maths later in life.  Overcoming a difficult hurdle in life can feel really worthwhile and says a lot about you as a person.

6. Algebra opens up other subjects

There are a huge number of other subjects which require knowledge of algebra and mathematics.  Here are just a few which at university will require algebra: biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, computer science, economics, food science, environmental science, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, psychology and social sciences.   Many of these subjects require a good knowledge of algebra found by studying A-level maths or A-level Further Maths (or equivalent).

7. Algebra helps us understand numbers better

You might not realise it, but studying algebra helps you get better at solving problems which involve only numbers.  If a pupil did not study any algebra, then it is likely that they would be worse at solving numerical problems, as their grasp of how numbers work would not be as good.  So you can thank algebra every time you solve a tricky arithmetic problem!

Money8. Algebra helps you get the best deals

Algebra can help you understand better how to make some big important financial choices in life.  Without algebra it is difficult to understand compound interest and to really get a handle on how mortgages work or how debt repayments function.  This could lead to some big mistakes if you choose the wrong mortgage deal, pension or loan.    Having a basic grasp of algebra along with good numeracy and an understanding of percentages, could literally save you thousands of pounds.  Martin Lewis from moneysavingexpert.com believes the average family can save £5,000 by getting the best deal on all their bills.  There is no doubt that algebra and maths is vital to many of these calculations.

9. Algebra can be beautiful

Believe it or not, but algebra can be really beautiful!  Unfortunately this is not necessarily obvious when you are first learning the basics of the subject.   By the time you get a little bit further, perhaps studying GCSE higher paper or A-level maths and further maths, the elegance of algebra should be becoming more obvious.    Read an article here about what is possibly the most beautiful equation - Euler's equation.

G.H.Hardy (a famous 20th Century mathematician) wrote:

"Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics."

10. Algebra is part of our culture

Education is not just about learning a narrow set of information or skills which you will use every day in the future.  Learning is also about being educated about a wide variety of topics, so that you can make sense of the world which you live in.  Algebra has played such a big part in our history, (without it there would have been no industrial revolution, no man on the moon etc.) that we should at least know a bit about it, just like we learn about Shakespeare, or the history of the Roman empire.

Article by Hazel Lewis