Cover image by Helena Warner

Here at M-A, there are a variety of science and math classes with challenging and captivating topics. While these classes are mentally stimulating, it is not uncommon to hear a student ask from time to time, “When will I ever use this in real life?” This question is especially relevant to many STEM classes because they can deal with more abstract concepts with applications that are less immediately apparent. After many interviews with a variety of math and science teachers, here are some new ways to look at your STEM classes!

Algebra

When asked about the value of her math class, AS Algebra 2 teacher Jen Che said, “To be perfectly honest, I tell my students in many classes that, unless you are planning to pursue a career in STEM, you are not going to directly use the material,” she said. 

That does not mean knowing algebra won’t make your life easier. Che explains, “Credit cards are a huge thing. My husband and I know how quickly interest rates build with exponential growth, which made it very clear to us that we are never going into credit card debt.” 

This is one of many algebraic situations that you may find yourself in, showing that it is important to have background knowledge of Algebra.

Che notes that students’ questions about the real-world applications of Algebra are valid and worth exploring. 

Chemistry

California’s wildfires have worsened severely in the past 10 years. Wildfires and Chemistry go hand in hand because of combustion, the process of burning something. These topics are especially relevant to us. In September 2020, the Bay Area had a beautiful sunset, but at 8 A.M in the morning. California’s wildfires caused its blue skies to be covered by smoke and ash, creating a red and orange color. 

Chemistry and Biology teacher Rachel Richards said, “Every unit in Chemistry classes is actually structured around real life experiences. In chemistry right now, we’re learning about combustion, and we opened up with wildfires because we’ve all suffered from wildfires and the effects of them in our area. We also talk about ‘Why is it getting worse?’” 

Richard’s class emphasizes the cause of wildfires and what we can do about them, among many things. Chemistry helps  “People become more educated on the influence of their health decisions, environment and their personal impact, as well as helping them become more educated voters.” 

Geometry

Geometry concepts like shapes, area, and volume are everywhere. Even though these ideas seem irrelevant to our day-to-day lives, they can be of use in unexpected ways. 

Geometry teacher Rachel Andres explained,“I have actually given my adult friends many lessons on special right triangles, because they were building things in their home. One of my friends was building a playhouse in the backyard and was trying to figure out properties of triangles, like 45-45-90 triangles, to build it.” 

With background knowledge of geometry lessons, you can figure out these geometric problems.

Biology

Medicine and anatomy are constantly present in everyday life, which is all rooted in biology. In our current world, the COVID-19 vaccine has stirred controversy across the world, particularly regarding its utility. With a background in Biology, we can have a better understanding of it. 

Biology teacher Mark Helfenberger said, “If you’ve had some background in biology, you have a decent idea of how an immune system works and why the vaccine does what it does. People who have less experience with it are much more likely to be convinced that the vaccines were some sort of plot or conspiracy.” 

Biology is a required class for all M-A students, and the concepts we learn from it are applicable to many aspects of our lives, considering that biology is the study of our bodies.

Marine Biology

Although marine biology teacher Erika Shepard admits that “marine biology is definitely not an applicable subject to anyone who goes into humanities,” she accentuates the fact that marine biology and climate change have a lot to do with each other. 

Students from her class can apply their knowledge of endangered species to decisions such as what seafood to order at a restaurant. She encourages them to pay attention each time looking at a menu to decide what they want to eat, to consider whether it’s an eco-friendly choice, because unfortunately, “A lot of people are eating endangered species and not knowing it.” We should all understand that climate change and the alarming rise of water temperature is a crucial factor contributing to the threat to marine life.

She encourages everyone to check Seafood Watch, which is run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. 

We should challenge ourselves when we think “Why am I learning this? I’m never going to apply this in my life”. Everything we learn has a purpose and can be used in unexpected ways in our daily life as well as to solve big problems in our society.

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