When Will I Ever Use this Stuff?!

What Math do I Really Need?

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I have been in education for more years than I care to count or admit. The statement I hear over and over again with regards to math is something I'm sure you've heard too. If I have heard it once, I've heard it thousands of times: "When will I ever use this stuff".

All too often, students who make this statement are refering to the actual concept they are learning; whether it be Pythagorean's Theorem, multiplication of polynomials, long division, the Power Rule, properties of polygons, or what have you, their comment is usually based on the specific math topic.

Of course, I tell them that they are also actually applying and deeping many life long skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Skills that include but are not limited to: analyzing, making connections, problem solving, synthesizing information, reasoning (both inductive and deductive)applying themselves, looking for patterns, proving, thinking, understanding and persistence. Math is an opportunity gateway, it opens doors and without it, it often closes doors. However, if in fact math is not for you and you have a goal or career that doesn't require univiersity math, here's the everyday math that you'll need, hence this article is for you.

Everyday Math
First of all, before I generate this list of what I believe to be helpful math for everyone to know for day to day living, it is my opinion only and may differ from the opinions of others.

Percent is a concept that's used regularly.

What is the percent of deductions of your gross pay? This helps you calculate your net pay or potential pay. Sales are often based on percent, what is 20, 30, or 40 percent of a number? Percent is used in loans, mortgages and investment. You need to understand enough about percent to use a calculator correctly.

Percent is used to calculate simple and compound interest. Percents are used in services to calculate sales tax and tips. You should be able to use mental math for some percentage computations and the calculator for others.

Four Operations
The four operations refers to adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying and are sometimes referred to as arithmetic. I think this concept is self explanatory. We use the four operations for mental math in grocery stores, bill payments, recipes, house renovations etc. You should know the basic multiplication facts and you should know when and how to add, subtract, divide and multiply fluenty mentally and with a calculator.

Understanding the various units of measure that we are exposed to each day is vital to making decisions based on this information. When you go into the carpet store to consider a purchase and the store clerk tells you the carpet is 4.50 per square yard, you need to have an understanding of what your room measurements of 12 feet by 16 feet means in terms of the unit of measure, square yards. Think in terms of following a recipe. If you do not understand the various units of measure for dry goods such as flour, then you can make a mess out of baking.

Measurement recognition and understanding is a daily occurrence. Even if you need an online converter or calculator for conversions, a basic understanding of measurement is helpful.

Charts, Graphs and Data
Visual representation of information is commonplace in modern living. Graphs and charts are used to reduce the amount of textual explanation that many comparisons require. With the advent of the internet, it is imperative that we have the ability to look a graph and see the weight of the data points individually while having an idea as to the trend the data exhibits. Basic to extremely complex information can be portrayed using charts such as scatter plots in terms we understand. It's helpful to be able to interpret pie charts, line a bar graphs,

Problem Solving
Problem solving is a daily skill.

Being able to use the basic math mentioned here andy apply it to problem solving situations is key. In other words, knowing what math to use to solve basic problems. Exmaples of this are in doubling a recipe, halving a recipe, calculating how much tile is needed in a room of various sizes, balancing check books, calculating time lapses and distances for trips along with various money situations/financial literacy.

It can be difficult to determine the daily math one needs in everyday life and much depends on ones responsibilities in life, however, having a grasp on the above certainly helps. And, taking steps to improve your math skills is always a great idea.