Where do we really use math?

Well, well, well…I can tell you this much. I grew up in a typical One-Horse-Town. When I was still in Primary School in the 80’s and in Standard 3, today we refer to it as Grade 5, I used to wonder about this exact same question: “Where do we really use math?”

May I just add…My teacher, one of my all-time favourites, went the extra mile of driving out to our farm and tried to offer extra assistance. Sadly, I still failed, well, at least compared to the effort he has gone through.

And later in High School algebra became part of the equation (pardon the pun!).

I mean who would have thought to bring alphabet letters into maths?! Years later I crossed paths with an Educational Software company and I thought to myself: “How is this possible!?” The universe sure has it in for me! I now have to use maths as a means to earn my salary. How profound? The one thing that has caused me to suffer multiple anxiety attacks will now become a career…

Couple of years later I consulted a family of whom the father was a lawyer of profession. When I asked him whether maths was important to him and whether he uses it on a daily base his answer astounded me and changed my opinion about maths and left a lasting impression. He told me that maths was very important to him! He explained further by saying that when he interviews applicants as litigation secretaries, he would ask them whether they had maths in Grade 12. Unbeknownst to them, the incorrect answer would shatter their dreams of landing their dream job! You see, to him it was important that the successful candidate had attributes that could only be cultivated by having maths. According to him, not having maths meant that they encountered a hurdle in their life and they rather took the easy way around it than to see it through. It’s not just about maths…

This mystical subject enables you to look at things or situations from different angles, working your way forward and then backward, breaking it down into simpler, more manageable particles and finding a solution to everyday hurdles. It grows your ability to apply critical thinking to life’s important educational and career decisions, to plan and strategize a successful path thus to ensure a desirable outcome.

I believe it is important to practise mathematical thinking in early development. Simple conversations while shopping, discussing prices and comparing prices offer a practical platform which creates mathematical thinking.

When baking we can introduce the conversion chart. Stick a conversion table to your fridge and show how to measure ¾ cups of flower with only a ¼ measuring cup. My ‘Achilles heel’ in Grade 5… This exercise might become messy but it is so important to show how we apply simple maths in everyday life. Introduce simple mathematics through gardening (multiples of, how many rows and plants per row), planning an outing and budgets (costs), keeping a diary (planning of daily chores and time management).

So…Next time a child asks you: “Where do we really use math?” Say: “Everywhere” while you calmly reach for the measuring cups.

Written by: Henriëtte Papenfus

Director: Math Zone pty Ltd

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