The issue of education is one that will always be fuel for a lively debate. We would all agree that children – and adults, in truth – benefit from learning, and yet the question of how they learn is one that divides people as much today as it did 10, 20, or even 50 years ago. Among the questions most often asked is one of relevance; we recognize that kids need to learn, but what are the practical benefits of the things that they are taught?
A good example of this arises when you think about math. When many of us think back to our high school math classes, we might ask ourselves a series of “Why?” questions:
- Why do I need to know the area of a circle?
- Why does it matter if I can’t work out the hypotenuse of a triangle?
- Why is it important for me to know what x equals?
And so on. And, sure, there is some cause for amusement when you think of all the things you learned at school and have never needed in adult life. However, we should bear in mind that there is a reason these concepts have survived for centuries. After all, Pythagoras died more than 2500 years ago, but his teachings are still used in ways that are fundamental to our understanding of the world. Much of what we know about math came from either the ancient Greek or Babylonian civilizations, and the reason their concepts have held relevance for so long is because they are important. So if your kids ever ask the above questions, or any others related to math, it might be worth showing them how math matters in the real world.
Math helps our buildings stay standing
One of the most immediate examples of math in the real world is as it relates to architecture. Buildings need to be safe, from the house you live in to the department store you shop in. As a part of making them safe, figures and equations are vitally important. Before even one person steps inside a building, it needs to be able to stand up on its own, and that involves geometry; the shape of a construction defines how strong it will be. Arches, beams and pillars all have to be placed correctly to ensure a sturdy building.
Not only that, but the materials used in building need to be counted carefully. The right quantity of the right material in the right place will mean that it is capable of dealing with the rigors of everyday use. A shopping mall might have a footfall of millions of people in the course of a year. That’s a lot of punishment for a structure to absorb, and the reason it can be absorbed is that architects and civil engineers run the numbers to make sure things are combined in the right way. Pay enough attention, and you may even end up using these concepts yourself in home improvement projects.
Math helps you stay on top of finances
Naturally, budgeting is something most of us do as a matter of course, and it’s as simple as math gets. How much money do you have coming in each month, and how much needs to go straight back out? Subtract the second number from the first, and you have your monthly household budget. However, there are other questions to be asked when trying to stay on top of your finances, and they’ll usually require more complicated math. Carefully calculating your tax return, comparing credit cards, and deciding on health and life insurance plans are things that can make a big difference.
In order to make the best decisions you’ll often need to look at more than the raw numbers, and consider factors like the term of a loan, or the excess on an insurance plan. You’ll need to be able to spread repayments in a way which makes sense, and be able to calculate percentage amounts, in order to make the decision which will work best for you in the long term. If you don’t know whether 15% of $2000 is higher than 12.5% of $2500, it could end up costing you hundreds of dollars.
Math helps you cook and eat, healthily and well
You’ve no doubt encountered a recipe, in a book or online, which you’re super-keen to try out. You look at the timings and other information, and see that the recipe is to make a batch that “serves 4”. That’s not much use if you’re one of a couple, or if you’re cooking for a family of six. Which is where ratios come in. If a recipe for four people calls for 10oz of an ingredient, how many ounces do you need to feed six? If you know how to calculate ratios, you’ll find it easy to scale a recipe up, or down, to fit your family.
In addition, some recipes may be available from non-domestic sources which use the metric system for measurements. Knowing how to convert from grams and liters to pounds and pints allows you to follow such recipes accurately. Having a good command of maths will also allow you to calculate proportions of nutrients (also known as macros) to ensure that you are rigorously controlling your intake of carbohydrates, fats and sugars, which can be pivotal in following a healthy eating plan.
Everything that your kids learn in math class can benefit them in later life. Knowing the area of a circle can be essential in a career such as architecture or engineering. So, too, can being able to understand trigonometry inside out. But even if their future career is outside these categories, math is something we can use productively every day of our lives, and it is worth paying attention from the beginning so that we can seamlessly integrate our learning into the basic building blocks of a life like cooking, budgeting and home improvement. Even when it seems tangential, math is everywhere in life, and learning it well will benefit your kids.
This is a great read because I often find myself thinking “ugh, why does she need to know this? She won’t ever use it!” which is a terrible attitude to have about math.