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Seeing and Using Mathematics in Daily Life

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 3 8

I remember, sort of, my math classes in high school when someone would wonder aloud when they would ever need to use mathematics in daily life.  Being a fan of math myself, I would always take some offense to this line of thinking, but it never truly bothered me because I can understand how people could get frustrated with the subject of mathematics.  However, while the frustrated person is most likely not using complex math equations today, they are using math whether they like it or not.  And whether the know all the math going on around them, the universe they live in is one big set of algebra, trig, and calculus equations.  I started thinking about how math is used around me in just one day.

Mathematics in Daily Life - Waking Up

Waking up in the morning for most people involves mathematics.  Do you use an alarm clock?  If so, you can almost see the equations drifting through the air.  Math was used to build the clock, and math is used to send electricity to the clock to make it start chirping at you in the morning.  And I get it, most people do not enjoy the alarm clock, so maybe that was a bad example of mathematics in daily life.

Mathematics in Daily Life - Breakfast

Soon after the alarm clock goes off, breakfast begins.  If you like to measure out how much food you eat, you will of course need to be able to work out some simple problems.  If you only want to eat, say, 400 calories for breakfast, then you'll need to know how to ratio out your food based on food labels.  In my household we have a son with Type 1 Diabetes so it is important for us to be able to count carbs.  We count carbs based on food labels and then determine how much insulin he needs.  How do we do that?  Math skills we learned a long time ago.

Mathematics in Daily Life - Driving to Work and Back

This is an obvious way that we see math in our everyday lives.  Starting with the keyless entry, a vehicle is nothing more than a cool math problem.  The engine, the tires, the air conditioning, the radio, power steering, the odometer, etc. are based on mathematics equations.  Someone somewhere needed a good background in math in order to design the car, truck, or SUV that you take to work.  Still take a covered wagon everywhere?  If you didn't measure out the parts correctly, you'll soon be walking.

While you are in the car, do you ever trying to figure out how long it is going to take you to get somewhere?  Or how fast you need to go to get somewhere on time?  Algebra, baby.

Mathematics in Daily Life - Eating Out at Restaurants

Eating out at restaurants also invites math problems in your daily life.  What if you only have a certain amount of cash in hand and you left your credit cards at home?  Uh oh, now you're at the front of the line and need to figure out what you can get for less than $7.  Don't forget the tax!

What about tipping?  You can download some tipping software, but it's easier just to be able to figure out 15-20% yourself.

Mathematics in Daily Life - Watching Television

More electronics, more math.  From the second you push the first button on the remote control math takes over.  The remote needs to communicate with the TV.  Satellites and cable lines need to communicate with your TV.  DVR boxes and DVD or Blue-Ray players need to operate and communicate with remote controls and the TV.  All of these devices were developed and created with the help of math principles.  Without boring old math class we don't get our TV shows.

Mathematics in Daily Life - Going Shopping

If you are not impressed with the math work that others had to do in the creation of electronic devices, then just think about shopping.  Whether you are shopping for groceries or food, you are required to do some calculations in your head.  A couple pounds of beef will cost how much?  I have a $100 gift card to a clothing store, so what can I get?  These seem like small calculations to consider, but you have to use your math brain nonetheless.

What if you are painting your home?  Do you know how to calculate the square footage of the painting surface?  How many gallons of paint will that require?  How much will that cost?  Calculators will help out with that, but you still need to know what to put into the calculator.

Mathematics in Daily Life - Personal Finances

Personal finances are what people always point to when wondering when they'll need math in their lives.  Just because very few people actually balance a checkbook by hand today doesn't mean that you can slide on the math skills needed to keep track of your personal finances.  You still need to know how much money you have in the bank and how much you have available to spend.  It is hard to keep up with that in your head, so keeping a good spreadsheet or software program of some sort really helps out.  But again, you should be able to have a general idea of what is available.  Algebra helps out whether you realize it or not.

Mathematics in Daily Life - Gardening

But enough worrying about complex formulas that make watching tv and counting calories possible.  Just go out and enjoy some time in your garden.  What's that?  You need to know how many plants you can place in your flower bed?  I guess division would come in handy.  You need to know how much fertilizer to spread in your yard?  Good thing we have math.  You can't even get away from it when you want to.

Mathematics Makes the World Go Round

The entire universe is held together by mathematics.  The gravitational forces that keep stars and planets aligned are full of complex physics formulas and calculations that require math to solve.  Even something like music is just a big math problem.  The frets on a guitar are arranged in such a way that cutting the string by a certain measurement changes the note.

No matter what you do or what line of work you are in, you cannot get away from mathematics in daily life.



May 30, 2012 4:51pm
This is a very interesting article about the connection between math and our daily lives. Instead of asking when we would ever need to use mathematics in our daily life, we should ask what we would do without it! Very good article, "Thumbs-Up!"
May 30, 2012 6:56pm
Jun 4, 2012 12:11am
I'm helping my grandson with his Mathematics...we play chess. Great article, good feature. Thumbs up too!
Jun 4, 2012 12:32am
Great presentation of mathematics in our daily lives!
Jun 4, 2012 4:02pm
Congrats on the featured article!
Jun 4, 2012 7:54pm
Impressive article!

Congrats on being featured!

Jun 5, 2012 8:50pm
This makes me think of math ranging from making a pie to understanding pi! It's certainly something to be grateful for. Thanks for the reminders.
Jun 9, 2012 9:06pm
I like math, too. I feel sorry for the people I run into in stores who do not even know how to make change. Calculators need to be banned from classrooms until basic skills have been learned. A well deserved feature, congratulations. Thumbs Up!
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