Letters and musical notes have personalities to me. A "C" in music is definitely female. A "G" is definitely male. "M" and "S" are pretty letters for pretty things ("mucus" and "snot" notwithstanding. You can't be logical with things like this).
Numbers, however, are just numbers. Flat. Devoid of personality. Marks on a page. That's the way I think about them anyway. Maybe that's why I never liked math as much as other subjects when I was in school. In high school I was in the so-called "advanced" math classes, but I slogged through not really understanding much of anything until a "new math" geometry class that involved thinking and logic made a lot of things click for me, including algebra. More or less.
When I complained about algebra, my mother would say something I've heard a lot of parents say since: "I don't know why you need to learn this stuff. You're never going to use it." She knew my interests lay in music, language, art, drama—not mathematics. She knew there was no chance in hell that I was going to major in math or science in college.
She was wrong—not about my interests or my major but about how I would never use algebra. I do.
I was remembering Mom's words as I worked on solving some knotty budgeting problems at my business yesterday. Much to my surprise, I often find myself turning to algebra. What Mom didn't realize, I think, is that if you don't know algebra you won't, of course, ever turn to it. If you do, you might. She also didn't realize that the problem-solving and logic involved in math would come in handy for me. I'm sure she never dreamed I would start my own business some day.
Though kids often think they know everything, they don't know—can't possibly know—what life is going to have in store for them. Having skills they may never use broadens their options in life. They have more choices.
Despite my struggles with it, I'm glad I know and can use basic algebra. I still find numbers to be without personality. But useful? Of course.