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!
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.
6. The internet
Has your child ever wondered how Google finds search results so quickly, how Netflix knows which shows they might like, or how YouTube targets ads? Social media, streaming services and search technologies use algorithms to learn more about you and tailor their offerings (and ads!) to what you or your child is likely to be interested in, or what they know about their demographics. Algorithms are sets of instructions that tell computers how to find relevant items in massive amounts of data. Websites take whatever information they have about the user and match it with what’s in their database to deliver the content the user is most likely to want.
7. Cooking and baking
They say that baking is a science and cooking is an art, but they both involve maths. Following a recipe involves measuring ingredients accurately, converting temperatures or measurements from imperial to metric, and using ratios to adjust the results. If you want your kids to be able to bake the perfect cookie, maths is the secret ingredient!
8. Computers and technology
Computer programmers and software designers use maths in all sorts of ways. Algebra is used to develop algorithms, statistics helps users analyse data, and calculus powers graphs and images. Video game animators and designers also need maths – they use algebra and trigonometry to build characters and other elements that move realistically on the screen.
Understanding how to use maths in everyday life can help your child discover that maths is relevant to what they are most interested in – and not just in school!