I hear people talk a lot about the importance of context in mathematics....usually, I think, for all the wrong reasons. There is a common misconception that if we show students how they can "use math" that they will find it more enjoyable and see the value in learning it in school. I'm pretty sure the problem isn't that students really want to know how this stuff is valuable in usage. The problem, I think, is that when the subject is relegated to procedures/facts/tricks it often disrupts the way a student naturally thinks.

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As I see it, yes, context is important but not to show students how they can use math. The context is important to show students how their mathematics is a natural extension of how they think and live in the world. Constance Kamii says it best:

"Most math educators think about verbal problems (word problems) as applications of computational 'skills,' rather than as the beginning point that eventually leads to generalized computation, without content, context, or practical purpose."

Kamii, C. (1985).

*Young children reinvent arithmetic: Implications of Piaget's theory*. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.