For many people, the word “technology” can bring on an instant sense of fear and uneasiness that can be equated with a fear of heights. Unfortunately, our culture often encourages this by giving technology and science a mystique that gives a sense that only certain individuals with special skills and personalities can handle. In truth, the ability to understand and develop technical skills is more a function of individual personality, social breeding and exposure that encourages young people to feel comfortable and pursue interests in areas that naturally lead into technical fields. Most desirable is to encourage the appreciation of technological ideas and theory to youths who have little difficulty understanding and appreciating technical concepts when it comes to playing video games or selecting the latest style clothing from Aeropostale.
An example is the development of mathematical skills. Historically mathematics has been presented to our children first as a concrete fact they learn by seeing the concepts directly before them. This is both easily comprehended and fun and entertaining for the curious child. However, when we translate these concrete facts to theoretical concepts we ask our youth to accept ideas without presenting them with examples they can see and place into a realistic context. It is here where we begin to lose the interest and attention of many prospective mathematicians and scientists, because we ask them to accept a concept without giving them the concrete proof upon which to found that acceptance…except perhaps the promise of a high grade in the course.
By contrast, could teens’ interest and attention be piqued if they were asked to learn ways to apply mathematical theory to a practical use? Could they more rapidly learn and comprehend the concepts of percentages or algebra if they were asked to use it to determine a way to accumulate the money to buy a new video game by compiling the savings they make when they use a Groupon promo code to save 20% off of the list price the next time they purchase the latest style jeans and hoodies from Aeropostale? Perhaps using such sample cases might be a more effective tool for introducing youth to algebraic theory than a book filled with equations and numbers that fails to provide a student with an example of the practical applications of abstract concepts.