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I haven’t used a box and whisker plot since high school. These days, if somebody whispers ‘improper fraction‘ to me I get visions of a fraction doing lewd things on a public street. Yeah baby.

I have not ‘solved for x‘ in almost eight years.

And life is good.

Everyone’s different but we’ve all spent time learning something or other in school that we’re fairly sure we’ll never ever have to use again. Pythagoras was clearly a pretty stand-up guy, but his theorum has done nine tenths of bugger all for my personal life.

Having said that, biology is a whole other matter. I was caught in a bar conversation with a guy the other night when he made a passing (and what he thought subtle) reference to ribosomes – it’s a long story – and I was able to make a crack about Adenosine Triphosphate or, as my Year 12 studies taught me, ATP.

And I wonder why I never find dates when I’m out?

“Hey sexy, wanna talk about cellular biology?”

Luckily I learned to classify tumbleweeds in the same course.

I was reminded about this when I saw this video. Seen one Gotye parody, seen ‘em all, right? WRONG. This is very brilliant. If you’ve ever felt frustrated about all the pointless information you were forced to memorise throughout your school years, you’ll love it. Take a look:

Speaking of useless information you learned, what did you get taught that you’ve never used since?

1. ‘) or (‘a’='a

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2. ‘ order by 1000/*

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3. order by 1000;–

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4. order by 1000/*

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5. ) or (’1′=’1–

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6. 1′ OR ’1′=’1

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7. ookjk85h74

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9. My son’s maths report came home today – a box and whisker graph!!

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10. Last year I tutored nursing students and got asked a few times “How often have you used this at work?” Ummmm never…….. Awkward!
And I truly believe much of my uni degree (nursing), was taken up with useless, politically correct subjects that have added nothing to my professional development.

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11. I use lots of it in my day to day… Sad that the general population couldn’t work out simple things like whether this or that particular milk is better value really so the supermarkets did this ‘wonderful thing’ by us to put it on the shelf price… :-/ dont get me wrong, its great when you’re time poor but DUH to those who totally didnt realise that informations ALWAYS been there…… lAZY.

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12. My school was apparently a very “academic” school….pfft! What I really needed to learn at school was how to write and write well. So I took English and History thinking it would help. Nope! When I got to uni I had to relearn everything about writing! I once had a tutor go through my entire 3000 word essay with me bit by bit to teach me how it was supposed to be organized. My research and theories were great but my writing AlWAYS let me down. I’m a lot better now with report writing, proposals etc but definitely NOT where I should be. Had no problems with my other subjects. Drama taught me how to give a good presentation and how to speak comfortably in front of a crowd. accounting helps with my banking. Maths…..meh. Study of Religion…..awesome eye opening subject! History….loved it. I think it was my English teacher unfortunately….great drama teacher but I suspect not trained very well in English. Yeah yeah seems like such a cop out blame the teacher but I know great English teachers and considering I had to throw away everything she taught me and start all over again at uni says something. Grrrr bigges waste of time!!!

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13. FOr anyone that has ever done a nursing degree, they go on about ATP alllllll the time… Rick, your joke would not have gone over my head!!!

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14. Did Italian almost my entire school career and I can count to 100, say that I’m not late, ask to open the door, say Happy Easter, greet you…and that’s it!

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• apres la porta!

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15. Given that some of us are doing jobs that probably didn’t exist when we finished school, and that kids today are even less likely to use specific knowledge from school in their jobs, the most important skill we can learn in school is how to think. Critical thinking, problem solving and dealing with others is what we should leave school being able to do. The knowledge stuff is a bonus.

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• Amen hst!
Critical thinking and retaining the concepts behind those pesky whacky graphs from high school would go a long way in stamping out the spectacularly counterfactual anti-science quackery brigade from pulling the wool over the eyes of a large section of the population.

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16. I remember questioning why we need to learn calculus and being told “you might want to build a bridge one day” Er, no!

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17. When my kids at school complain, ‘when will I ever use this?!’ I always give them the brain lecture (I’ll give you the short version) – when you’re a kid your brain is building billions of connections. When you are a teenager your brain begins to shed the connections that aren’t being used thus why we get students to do seemingly ‘useless’ things; to ensure the brain can solve complex problems into adulthood. Whenever my kids complain I give them the, ‘do you want the brain lecture again?’ (the long version) line and they quickly shut up!

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• Haha, love this! I hear this all the time as an English teacher – “why do we need to learn this?” Drives me crazy, but I’m now going to use your brain lecture! Thanks

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• I always get “is this an assessment?” and “what’s this for?” …. I just say “its exercising your brain”.

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18. On the reverse side, I took typing for 2 years thinking it was a bit of a hoot but something I would never, ever use since I wasn’t going to be a secretary. Who knew!!

Turns out touch typing is far more useful than all the “important” stuff I learnt… like high school Maths!

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19. A few years after leaving school I was doing some gardening and needed to buy some soil. My garden was a trapezuim shape (triangle with the top cut off) and I was STOKED to remember to find the area I needed to use the formula 1/2 h (a+b).

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20. It’s not the stuff you learn that you use (always) but rather learning it helps your brain grow – pretty simple really.

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• Why don’t people realise this? Isn’t that completely obvious?

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21. Sin cos tan
tens to the power of some other numbers with zeros on the end
the periodic table

Zero memory retention of these things. Care factor also zero.

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• I know sin cos tan are on the calculator and it was a big deal when we got to press those buttons, now I don’t have a clue what they are used for.

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• Trigonometry.

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• The acronym trick they taught me in HS is still in my head: some old hags can’t always hide their old age. Sin = Opposite/ Hypotenuse; Cos = Adjacent/Hypotenuse; Tan = Opposite/Adjacent… haven’t even used it since I left HS :/

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• To remember the order of the planets we were taught – my very earnest maid just swept up nine pins.
I still use it. Scary.

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• Some Old Hags Can’t Always Hide Their Old Age : )

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22. It took me a uni degree and years in the work force to realise that high school was just as much, if not more, about learning thinking skill and building up our mental abilities. Even though I’ve forgotten an alarming amount of what I learnt in high school, I use the ability to think analytically, analyse text and explore complex logical patterns every day

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23. Maths. I could do the basics (adding, subtraction, times tables and so on) before I started primary school, and I’m able to do everything I need to in my head (the ‘wrong’ way, but it get’s the same results). Obviously knowledge of maths is useful for many people, but given I knew before starting high school that anything heavy in maths wasn’t for me, and given I’ve never had any reason to use any maths knowledge I hadn’t learnt by grade 6, 6 years of maths classes were wasted on me.

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• There is no WRONG way… Everyone thinks differently, and if it works, why not do it that way!!
Spoken like a teacher that loves maths…

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24. Still waiting to use logarithms…left school 30 odd years ago!!

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• Me too! (26 years)

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• Was at a gathering a few years ago when this topic came up and I said my thing about logarithms, then this guy pipes up and says he uses them in his line of work – he is a quantity surveyor!!

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25. I learned so much stuff I have not used:
Sadly, after 5 years of French the only thing I can remember is “Can I have a ham and cheese sandwich please?” – at least I won’t starve and thankfully I live in a country that speaks English!
Trigonometry – I literally do not remember even one thing about how to do this.
How to make a dovetail(??) joint – I was so bad in woodwork the teacher did most of my stuff and now I am an adult this is what a carpenter is for.
How to critically analyse a John Donne poem – for some reason they have never asked me to do this at a job interview.
The periodic table of elements – I know I like gold but could not care less about its atomic weight or whatever it is.
The poor laws of Elizabeth I – wasn’t interested when we learnt it and have never needed to know it since!

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• I’m sure I would have done better at woodwork than I did at Home Science – #\$%^ girls high schools.

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26. Am I the only one that sang “Hey sexy, wanna talk bout cell biology?” in my head like Kimbra does in the original Gotye song?

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• I hope not.

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27. As a medical physicist, I’ve found that I have to ‘solve for x’ often.

Mind you the details I learned about the burial ceremonies of the ancient Egyptians has not be at all useful.

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• Hahaha i’m the exact opposite of you! I’m terrible at maths, dropped it at the end of year 10 and i’m just about to finish an arts degree majoring in archaeology! Not going to be an archaeologist though, more like a museum curator

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• Hahaha that makes me happy.
I’m glad all of these different facts are being put to good use by somebody!

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28. One person’s trash is another’s treasure. Much of that ‘useless’ knowledge has proved to be quite essential to me.

We’d all be so much poorer if our educations only went as far and as deep as the routine of our everyday lives. We would never know there was a world beyond to be discovered.

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• Yes, I agree.

High School also helps us work out where our interests/skills/talent lies so we can choose what to do next with further education or career.

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29. General Maths and Science…………not only boring bt useless to my life!!!

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• Actually, year 11 and 12 general maths was some of the most useful stuff I did at school. Understanding about things like interest rates, and therefore whether you’re better off paying for your fridge in monthly repayments or putting the one-off total on a credit card is actually something that most people would benefit from.

On a more day to day level, I use ratios when I’m increasing or decreasing a recipe; do price comparisons at the supermarket when they don’t have the price per 100g etc on the price tickets; can work out whether I have enough petrol to fill up on the way home from uni, or if I need to stop on the way and walk into a lecture late (thankfully, I’ve only had to do that once); and know how to do a budget to see if I can afford to do something expensive. And once, I even used pythagorus when I was baking a gingerbread house from a recipe that didn’t really give you the measurements you needed to make the template. Not all of it is necessarily useful (the only time I’ve ever needed a box and whisker plot was when tutoring general maths), but the parts of it that are useful are very useful.

Mathematics, on the other hand, is a completely useless subject with no real world application for most people.

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30. I get asked why they need to do English. My response – you will need to know how to read and write and speak. And we hope you will leave with the ability to understands how texts are constructed so you can be an active global citizen – understand when you are being manipulated by political rhetoric, understand why song lyrics make you cry, and definitely understand why Chuck Norris movies are so bad and how to find better ones!!

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31. Rick – I’m a high school teacher – and am feeling somewhat alarmed that I have never even heard of a ‘box and whisker plot’ let alone used/taught it. Please put me out of my misery and explain!

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• They’re how some of the NAPLAN data gets presented. The bulk of kids (mid 60%) and their scores are in the box and the top and tail kids are the whiskers at the end.

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• So is it like a bell curve…, or not?

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• I don’t even know why I remember it! Probably because it reminds me of a cat and I find it amusing. That is it.

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• They’re used in statistics.

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32. Knowledge without application is useless.

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• I see your point but I also believe that we also need to value learning purely for the sake of learning. Not everything has an initial practical application, and some of our greatest scoentific discoveries have been almost serendipitous byproducts of other research. I doubt many authors of our literary canon sat down thinking “today I shall start work on a novel that will be timeless an profound” yet that is what their work became.

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• Additionally there is a lot of research and evidence proving that educational levels have a definite correlation to improved overall levels of health, happiness and even lifespan. There is also the benefit of opening up opportunities through confidence, increased aspiration, etc which is particularly important for assisting in breaking down cycles in communities of financial disadvantage. (I work at a university so this is a bit of a soap box issue for me!)

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• PS – absolutely loved the video clip Rick!

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• Knowledge is our only weapon against ignorance

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• And, while I hate to sound like a giant nerd, the brain is a muscle – if you don’t use it, you lose it. Sometimes learning is simply about exercising your brain.

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33. cellular biology became my career!!

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34. One of the hardest questions to answer as a teacher is the inevitable “but when am I ever going to use this again?”. Sometimes, if we were being honest, the answer would be “frankly, never”.

Some of what we teach in schools isn’t about learning explicit skills for the employee marketplace, it’s about trying to foster a sense of who we are, and provide an itty bitty wondow into a world beyond our own experience. So many teens I’ve taught have such a narrow world view and just getting them to appreciate not everyone’s experience is the same as theirs is a challenge.

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• I remember our maths teacher saying to us whenever we asked this question ”it’s not about the stuff you’re learning exactly, it’s about learning to learn and being able to apply that knowledge”. Kinda hard to argue with that!

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• I remember once I said to my 4 unit math teacher: “When are we ever going to need to use this in real life?” And he said: “In the HSC exam, the outcome of which will determine the rest of your life.” It shut me up.

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35. I have used nearly all that “useless maths” inu career and I am so glad I was taught the basic ‘s in maths.

Knowledge is never crap- you never know when it will come in handy

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• However, I’m guessing English wasn’t your strong suit.

Kidding!

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*slaps self on wrist*

But it is truly ironic that we all learn screeds of irrelevant stuff at school that we never use in real life, but so many people weren’t taught (or don’t remember) some of the important skill-sets that we DO need to use everyday: spelling, grammar & punctuation.

*puts inner pedant back in its box*

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