Mathematics

How Math is used in the Real World despite what Students say



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As a former math teacher I was faced with this at least once per class. So if you are a teacher there is an easy answer that brings the student back into focus. You can have that students calculator out doing real life math is 20 seconds or less. All you have to say is... "I just calculated your grade and you have a D, so unless you can show me that I am wrong, that is the grade I will be filing"

Of course the underlying question has more and more merit as you move on through your math. In basic addition and multiplication, there are simple examples of real world math all around. Things like do you have enough money in your pocket to buy two sandwiches and a drink for lunch usually will bring it home. But the more complex the math, the less you use it.

I personally have gotten to the "when am I going to use this" point twice. The first time I was proven wrong, and the second time I am still waiting to be proven wrong. The first time was when I looked at Matrices. The whole idea seemed stupid to me. Basically what you were doing was taking a concrete math problem. Making it abstract. Manipulating it (in the same way you would manipulate it if it were concrete by the way), and then making it concrete again so you had an answer. To me it seemed that the extra steps simply introduced room for error. As the problem could be done without the extra steps there was no need for them. I held fast to this idea until Physical Chemistry when there were enough variables in the problem that they became cumbersome in concrete form and you had to use matrices.

The one area where I still haven't found a use for the math though is infinite funnels. I clearly remember sitting in a calculus class calculating the volume of an infinite funnel and thinking, "fantastic, if I ever need to paint an infinite funnel I will just calculate its volume and dump in that much paint." I am sure that someone somewhere has found a use for the theoretical infinite funnel, but I have not, as of yet, run into one.

So unfortunately, as of now, all math is not used every day. On the flip side, almost everything we do has some sort of underlying mathematical principal. Understanding these principals will help you better interact with the world around you. For example, if you don't understand the principals of compound interest, you may have some issues with picking your mortgage or investment strategies. You may also be a little surprised by your credit card bill. And of course it is also nice to know if the five dollars in your pocket is enough to buy a four dollar sandwich and a one dollar drink.

(For those of you still working on that one, the answer depends on where you are. If that confuses you more, you need to do more math)

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