Many people find math to be incredibly difficult, and reasonably want to take math classes that are less challenging. This can lead to some decisions that are difficult to make unless you already know something about the relevant topics. For instance, how will you know if geometry or algebra is harder?
Geometry has less math in it than algebra, and the math that is required is less complicated. However, Geometry also requires you to memorize a lot of rules and formulas, which can be more difficult than basic algebra for some people. If you need help in a math class, you should ask your teacher.
Algebra and geometry are both difficult, but for very different reasons. This means that in order to know which one will be more difficult for you, you will need to understand a little bit about what they are and what will be expected of you.
Why Is Geometry Hard?
Geometry is the study of shapes. Our knowledge of geometry in the western world dates back to ancient Greece, where philosophers and mathematicians like Pythagoras and Euclid made discoveries about the rules that shapes tended to follow.
At a high school level, you will mostly study the ways in which we use those rules to solve problems that involve things like measuring shapes based on their relationships to other shapes.
The math used in geometry is mostly simple multiplication or division, although you will also work with fractions a significant amount. You will also need to understand how to create and use a graph.
This is the reason that algebra is usually taught before geometry since it’s much easier to become familiar with the way that graphs are used in math through the lens of algebra than geometry.
The hard part of geometry for most people is usually learning and memorizing the various rules that are used to do the work. High school level geometry usually contains a short unit on logic in order to make understanding and applying these rules easier, but for some people, this will be extremely. difficult.
So Geometry has easier math but includes other difficult portions that many people struggle with. Now let’s look at the reasons that Algebra can be difficult for lots of people.
Why Is Algebra Hard?
The history of algebra dates all the way back to the Babylonians, but the modern version of algebra that uses symbols to represent unknown variables has only been around for a few hundred years, originating from the great middle eastern mathematicians like Ibn al-Bana, while later on being popularized in Europe by the likes of René Descartes.
Algebra involves applying simpler forms of mathematics to solve problems where the unknown variable is not the number that comes after the equals sign, but one of the numbers within the problem itself.
Algebra requires a thorough understanding of multiplication, division, and other mathematical functions such as powers and non-whole numbers. This means that algebra requires quite a bit of math to figure out. For a lot of people, this can be quite easy, since math isn’t usually especially difficult.
However, the fact that there’s a lot of it can make it much harder to execute properly even if you have a grasp on what you’re learning. For a lot of people, if there are lots of little steps to solving a problem, that means that it can be difficult to get to the end without messing up, which can have an effect on your final answer and/or grade.
Algebra also requires you to learn a lot about graphing. Graphing is a very visual way to process mathematics, which can trip up some people or be a revelation for others. The graphing in Algebra mostly involves processing equations, however, and that can make it feel very abstract.
Why is Geometry Important?
Geometry is something you will end up using in nearly everyday life, whether intentionally or not! You don’t have to major in architecture in college to incorporate architecture into your day. What are a few of those examples?
- Parking your car! When you park your car, whether you are parallel parking or parking in your garage, you are using geometry. When you are measuring or estimating the area of a shape, you’re making that calculation with geometry, and that includes your car. Before you park in your garage or parking space, you are making a mental calculation of how much space your car is taking up, calculating the space to your sides (whether that be lines, or other cars to your right and left) and deciding whether or not the volume of your car can fit into the volume of the parking space. Interesting, right?
- This also comes up when you’re packing boxes! When you’re dealing with shapes and sizes, chances are pretty high that you’re going to be dealing with geometry. Similarly to parking a car, when you’re packing a box, you’re taking a measurement of the box, and figuring out the best combination of different shapes and sizes that can be used to fill it most efficiently. Similarly to parking, measurements are generally taken, but are estimated. Even playing Tetris on your phone requires you to think in terms of geometry!
- Let’s go for one more common example. Did you know that a tape measure is a geometric tool? Nearly any time you use one, you’re using geometry. Tape measures are typically used to find the area or volume of objects and spaces, and that’s what geometry is all about! If you’ve ever measured an area to make sure the couch you want isn’t too long, or measured a bookshelf to make sure it isn’t too tall, you’ve used geometry! Unfortunately, it seems like our math teachers were right, we do use math in our everyday lives.
Why is Algebra Important?
Algebra gets used just as often (if not more often) than geometry! Are you using basic addition and subtraction? Multiplication? Division? You’re definitely using algebra.
Here are a few specific examples!
- Are you thinking about what time you need to leave for work, while factoring in traffic, dropping kids off at school on your way, or getting gas before you go home? That’s algebra! Adding and subtracting time from a total in order to effectively manage your day is a perfect (and very common) example of algebra.
- Whenever you look over that budget spreadsheet you’ve got, subtracting rent out, allotting a certain amount for groceries, and adding in the birthday money you just got from your grandma, you’re using algebra! Money management is a super commonplace example of using algebra in your normal day.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.