# Why are maths textbooks filled with absurd, forced problems?

Very true, but not in the way you think.

Most real world applications of mathematics are very complicated to solve. And most are beyond the level that most secondary school students can handle.

A single example will suffice. Queueing theory. Ask anyone who has studied queueing theory & with a few exceptions, their faces will fall & a look of pained horror will pass over their faces. Yes, mine too! It's hard, but also incredibly useful. Queueing theory deals with problems like

How many tills should be open at any one time in a supermarket so that staff are not not sitting about with nothing to do but also are not overrun with queues going back to the far wall?

Or why does motorway traffic slow right down for no apparent reason & then speed up again?

The maths behind these problems are really hard.

I've been a maths teacher my whole adult life, but I'd need a major refresher in order to tackle this stuff.

The first example, I could have talked reasonably intelligently about 40+ years ago, but not now.

The motorway problem is way out of my league.

Mathematics is tremendously useful, but to create a mathematical model which accurately predicts any real world situation, is astoundingly difficult.

It is work which demands extraordinary ability & creativity & persistence.

The great UK mathematician, Andrew Wiles, is famous for solving a little extension to Pythagorasâ€™ Theorem called Fermat's Last Theorem. It took him eleven years to achieve it with many missteps along the way. So be careful what you wish for.

The folks who write text books, use artificial & contrived examples because the real ones are just too damned difficult.

06/07/2020