8 ways we use maths in everyday life

Maths can seem abstract in the classroom, but the truth is it's a crucial tool we use everyday.

It’s the question every student asks and every maths teacher hears at some point: ‘When will I ever need maths in everyday life?’ If you’ve ever heard this from your own child, you might struggle to think of a response.

Maths can seem abstract in the classroom, but the truth is that we use it all the time – we just might not realise it.

Maths helps us to make decisions, predict outcomes and keep our lives in order. On a larger scale, maths underpins everything around us. Here are just a few of the ways that we use maths in everyday life that can connect to your child’s interests and that you can have handy next time you get those homework help requests!

Out of the classroom and into the kitchen – and the sports field, on holidays and more – let us count some of the ways maths is used in everyday life.

1. Personal finance

The most obvious place to start is with something we all have to deal with – money. Arithmetic skills are important for creating a budget, making a savings plan or working out whether something we want to buy really is a bargain. If we understand percentages, for example, we can work out the real cost of a credit card, online payment platform or loan, or the potential return on an investment.

2. The built environment

All the buildings, roads, bridges, transport systems and other structures around us are part of the built environment – and they’re all built on maths. Architects use geometry, algebra and trigonometry to design buildings that are aesthetically pleasing and structurally sound. Construction engineers use calculus and statistical methods to ensure that large structures such as bridges and towers stay standing up. And builders need maths skills to work out the quantity of concrete, timber and steel they will need.

3. Sports and games

Sports superfans love to keep track of scores and statistics, and maths helps athletes play better. Geometry and trigonometry can help sports statisticians to find the best way for athletes to kick the ball, or the most efficient way for them to run around a track. Probability helps us figure out the chances of our favourite team winning or losing a match. And if tabletop board games are more your style, probability also determines the most likely outcomes of the rolls of the dice.

4. Transport and travel

Everything that moves is based on physical laws determined by maths – take the well-known equation F=ma, or force equals mass times acceleration, for example. Engineers use maths in everyday life, such as algebra and calculus to design and build planes, trains and cars. You might even use maths when planning a holiday for your family, from calculating the amount of fuel needed for a road trip to converting foreign currency or adding up local taxes overseas.

5. Weather and climate

Meteorologists use statistical modelling to predict future temperatures, rainfall, humidity and other weather conditions. Climate scientists use mathematical skills like differential equations to model different climate change scenarios using historical data. Maths can also be used to predict natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes and bushfires – and insurers use this information to assess risk and set their premium prices.