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Today’s guest post explains exactly why you’ll be glad you paid attention back in math class. Maybe it’s true what Mrs. Jones said – “You’ll be using math every day… all the time, in the real world.” Let’s check out some reasons why.
Back to School: The Importance of Basic Maths Skills
For many adults, the maths lessons that they took in school were the last time they sat down and really seriously thought about applying mathematical skills to a problem. We are always told that ‘math is all around us’ and that it is at work in everything we see and do, but we rarely stop to wonder just how we use it ourselves in everyday life. Here we’re going to take a look at the basic maths skills that get us through some of the most commonplace tasks in adult life and show a little appreciation for just how integral they are to modern existence.
Cast your mind back to the classroom and you may remember hearing the phrase ‘The 3 Rs’. It could even have been in a history class, learning about how the curriculum was different back in the 19th century and rote learning was the norm. If you’ve never heard this phrase before (or just forgotten what it means), the three Rs stand for Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. We’re going to focus on the last subject, but it does in fact link to the other two.
Basic arithmetic skills include addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. These are the building blocks of maths and come into play in many everyday situations. Each payday, you may want to work out exactly how much money you can portion out for different expenses and how much can be saved; basic arithmetic can help you there. It can also be handy when telling the time, working out your calorie count for the day or seeing how far you need to go to achieve your daily step goal.
In terms of reading and writing, poetry uses math to create certain rhythms by counting syllables, lines, words, or rhymes. Basic arithmetic can also help you when working towards a word count or keeping your eye on a deadline. You will use these skills every day without even realizing. They’re vital!
Perhaps one of the most confusing and frustrating math disciplines for many people is fractions. We all use simpler fractions like halves and quarters in everyday life; for example, we might halve a grapefruit or divide a pizza into quarters to share it around. But fractions can be so much more useful than that.
One of the most obvious practical applications for using fractions remains in the kitchen. There’s a big difference between using 0.25g of chili powder and 0.75g! Chefs, bakers, cooks, and anybody who finds themselves in the kitchen cooking to a recipe want to make sure that they have a good grasp of fractions. Baking recipes in particular often work in measurements like cups; if your sponge cake recipe calls for ¾ of a cup of sugar but you only have a ½ measuring cup, you can apply your knowledge of fractions to ensure that you use the right amount of ingredients.
Filling up the car at the gas station, splitting a restaurant bill with friends, scaling a recipe up or down, getting the best deal in the sale at the supermarket; all of these tasks require the use of fractions and yet we navigate them with relative ease (most of the time). Once you start noticing, you’ll be surprised just how often you use fractions.
Probability is a slippery discipline but one that helps us to make decisions everywhere from the weather forecast to the clothing store to choosing our mortgage refinancing deal. If there’s a 90% chance of heavy rain on the weather forecast in the morning, then the high probability of wet weather might mean you decide to take the car to work and wear waterproof shoes. However, a 15% chance of rain and 75% chance of warm sunshine might see you chancing those open-toed sandals instead.
If one athlete has a high scoring average, then they also have a higher probability of being successful on the field or the court or the track. You can put more faith in the projected outcome of their performance and feel safer favoring them publicly, as they are likely to prove you right.
In financial matters, if there is a high percentage of homes broken into in your area over the past twelve months, it may inform the coverage you decide upon for your home insurance. Or, if you’re adding a younger driver to your car insurance, you might look at the probability of drivers in their age bracket having car accidents and decide to opt for a more comprehensive insurance option. So, whether you want a better idea of who’s going to dominate the courts or need to work out the best insurance deal for the family car, probability is going to help you.
The use of percentages is another one of those skills that you don’t realize you have until you notice that you’re using it all the time! If there’s 50% off a rack of $49 woolen sweaters at the department store, you’re able to identify that they are better valued than the cheaper $20 full price acrylic ones. Shops of all kinds use percentages to entice customers with deals that sound too good to be true, but with a little help from your basic maths skills, you are able to see which deals ring true and which aren’t worth the excitement.
Knowledge of percentages also helps us to make sense of statistics. Whether this relates to a survey broadcast on the news, information about a new workplace or the climate of a potential holiday destination, percentages can help to give you an idea of the general state of affairs.
In terms of money and investment, percentages play a big part in the world of interest. When taking out a loan, budgeting for a credit card repayment, or considering a mortgage, it’s imperative that you take into account the percentage of interest you will be paying and how long for. This can significantly affect the overall payment amount and therefore influence your decision before you’re contractually tied into a payment plan.
There are other basic math skills not covered here, such as conversions or geometry, that play a big part in everyday life, but hopefully this article has given you food for thought in regard to just how often you use math in your life.