Real-world maths

Discover how maths is used in the real world, all the time, every day.

Maths is all around us every minute of every day, though you may not know it or think about it very much. From the moment you wake up in the morning you are touching, seeing and using maths.

In this thought exercise, we’re going to explore some of those interactions on a typical morning as our student, Alice, makes her way to school. While you’re reading, you might want to ask yourself how many of these things happened to you today.

Telling time

Alice’s eyes open. She can see that the clock on her bedside table says 6:45 am: ‘Quarter of an hour until I have to get up!’ Telling the time, Alice has already used maths (addition, fractions and elapsed time) before she even got out of bed. She goes downstairs. In the living room, Alice finds her phone. Her mum says everyone needs a break from their devices when they sleep, so all the phones are plugged in at the same charging spot.


Checking the weather

While Alice makes her toast, she uses her phone to check what the weather will be like today. Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology scientists use information from satellites, ground measurement tools and complex mathematical calculations based on past weather patterns to give their best predictions for today’s weather. The weather app displays a 7-day forecast and says that today it’s going to be a high of 15 degrees Celsius and windy. Alice interprets weather symbols, understands the temperature scale and can see the patterns when looking at the week's weather.

Ordering lunch

Today is Wednesday – lunch order day. Alice gets a set allowance for lunch orders put into the canteen app on her phone each week. She has $8 left in her account. Alice uses the canteen app to order her lunch. She can see a few of her favourite items available to order today: fruit salad cup ($3), hot soup ($5), junior burger ($5), meat pie ($4) and hot chocolate ($3.50). Alice loves hot chocolate, but knows that if she buys that, she won’t have enough money to get the soup, which is her favourite. Alice remembers it is going to be a cold day. She decides to order a fruit salad so that she can still afford the hot chocolate.


Taking the bus

Alice is now dressed and has packed her school bag. She checks her bus ticket app and sees that she only has $3.00 left. It costs $3.80 to get to school. She works out she doesn't have time to walk the 3 km. Alice asks her mum to put more money on her app.

Alice reads the bus timetable. The next bus is at 8:10 am. Alice knows it takes 4 minutes to walk to the bus stop. She likes to be at the stop 5 minutes early to make sure she doesn’t miss the bus. The time is 8"00 am so Alice knows she needs to leave the house right away.

Before Alice has even arrived at maths class this morning, she has already encountered maths and products made possible by maths many times. Maths is all around us all the time. What real-world maths have you interacted with today?