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ALI Staff | Published March 02, 2023

As teachers, you may feel like a broken record telling your students that they’ll use this math, whatever you’re currently teaching, in everyday life. Students will nod, shrug, and maybe even roll their eyes. To them, what’s the point in learning it when their calculator will do the work anyway?

You know better.

Calculators aside, math is a vital component of everyday life when you’re at your desk working, but also when you’re in the kitchen, out shopping, or even looking for feedback on the quality of a product.

It may be up to you to pull back the curtain and show how math strategies apply in the real world, everywhere, and always.

There are plenty of examples to use when demonstrating the real-life applications of math. To make a splash, start with whatever resonates most with your students.

If you’re working with younger kids, show them how math is necessary when figuring out how to plant a vegetable garden.

They’ll need to know how deep to plant the seeds and how far apart to space them. Older kids may catch on if you talk about math and sports, using statistics to evaluate players and look at team records.

For those students about to actually head out into the real world, understanding how math makes that recipe turn out right in the kitchen or can help them save some money when shopping immediately resonates.

You can even talk about product reviews and how to mathematically analyze whether a 4.6 rating is better than a 4.2 if only two people reviewed the first product.

Stressing that it isn't just addition and subtraction that bleed into everyday life when it comes to applications of math will hopefully broaden their understanding of why a calculator isn’t always going to save them.

Once you’ve shown your students that everyone needs some basic math daily, you can take things to the next level. Using more specific examples of how math gets used outside the classroom can really help students see that it’s everywhere.

Talking about less obvious professions that rely heavily on math is a good place to start. Instead of telling students that data analysts and accounts really need math, talk about the architects who use math to design buildings or the personal trainers who use data and percentages to establish whether you’re healthy.

Math is also for creatives, so don’t let them slip by. It’s necessary for fields like photography and interior design. There are even mathematical rules that help guide these professionals, like the 60-30-10 Rule or the Rule of Thirds.

Chefs, bakers, and clothing designers would also be lost without math. They’d never be able to get their measurements right when doling out ingredients or cutting cloth. They’d never be able to calculate how much to charge for their finished product based on the costs of the materials either. They’d also never be able to convert measurements if necessary — like going from inches to centimeters or ounces to pounds.

When all other connections to math are ignored, and you’re dealing with high schoolers, give them a correlation they can’t deny — you need math to drive.

Math is a part of those quick calculations drivers do in their heads to know whether they need to adjust their speed based on the legal speed limit. It’s what makes it possible to understand when to slow down and when to speed up.

Math also comes into play when looking at the gas tank. It’s because of math that a driver knows when the gauge is at 50 percent or less, and it’s also through math that they can estimate how much filling up will cost.

For the more savvy driver, they’ll even use math to calculate gas mileage and see how it compares to what the manual claims the car gets.

Giving a complete picture of how math is used in everyday life also means touching on all the industries that very obviously require math. If not just to show students how many opportunities they can have with a mathematical background, covering these areas makes it obvious that math is important.

- Doctors and nurses use math to administer medicine, evaluate test results and assess the effectiveness of a treatment plan.
- Computer programmers use math — especially algorithms — to process information and make computers and applications work.
- Video game designers need math to create the space where the game lives. That world is a combination of geometry and vectors, among other mathematical components.
- Manufacturers use math across their entire supply chain. In today’s automated age, machines need math to function properly, and problem-solving has gone digital. It’s through industrial mathematics that efficiency is established.

Seeing how math operates in the real world, in every facet, can help students understand the value of this discipline. Learning math isn’t just necessary to get a good grade on a report card; it’s about developing a skill needed just about everywhere.

You’re also giving math a larger purpose by putting it into a real-world context. You’re showing how it extends across discipline lines and how it can align with specific student interests. You’re making the math personal while also allowing students to apply the math they’re learning.

When you can take math out of the classroom and insert it into real-life applications, you’re not just telling students they need math– you’re showing them why. Connecting the dots between math, day-to-day activities, and professional opportunity makes it hard to disagree about the vitality of learning math.

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