Practical Applications of Mathematics in Everyday Life
Historically, mathematics has been a subject that many students struggle with. How often have you heard a young learner utter the words, "I'm never going to use this stuff!?" as they are struggling to solve some algebra or calculus problems? For many parents and teachers, the utterance of this phrase (or ones like it) are too often a common occurrence in the classroom. Most people will respond to the students by saying that they may need it or a future job or that it improves the critical thinking ability of the brain. While these responses are good, and well intended, they don't serve the practical and immediate needs of the child. So perhaps next time that you hear a student struggling with math, you can gently remind them of these practical applications of math in our everyday life.
Financial Management
Probably the single most cited practical application for math in our everyday life is for money management. If you can't add or subtract correctly, its going to be very difficult for you to survive in our dollar driven society. Ok, so I know what your thinking, "The typical person who manages their own money has no need for math knowledge beyond the basic concepts of arithmetic, right?" Well this is in fact incorrect.
To be able to adequately understand the terms of a loan or an investment account, a basic understanding of higher math such as Algebra is required. You see, the interest (growth or payment terms) pertaining to these types of money markets utilize the concepts of exponential growth. For example, a typical mortgage will use the compound interest formula to determine how much interest needs to be paid each month.
If you're serious about managing your money, you could even use higher math to develop future projections of your spending habits. There is great value in this information; you can use it to plan future expenditures or even set goals for yourself. Below is a graph of my biweekly spending on groceries for the past year and a half.
What you'll notice in the above graph is that there is a nearly linear downward trend of my grocery spending. I can use the logarithmic equation to formulate an educated guess of my future spending habits. Since the best predictor of the future is the past, there is a good chance that this downward trend will continue for some time into the future (assuming nothing major in my life changes). As time progresses I am always adjusting the equations so that they reflect the best possible chance to accurately predict the future.
Home Improvement
Anyone that repairs or remodels homes will tell you that math has helped them get the job done efficiently. Some basic math skills will enable you to determine how much material you need to purchase to finish the project right. For example, a tile installer will need to calculate the floor area of a room to determine how many tiles he needs to bring to the job site. An electrician uses math to figure out how much wire they need to install new electrical outlets. Carpenters will also be able to determine how much wood they need to build a structure. You will likely rely on some form of math even when you are doing something as simple as painting a room. Understanding basic math concepts will help any doityourselfer save time and money.
In terms of home improvement, math can also help the homeowner answer other questions as well. For instance, if you have dripping faucet, you could measure the drip rate and determine how much water you would lose in any given amount of time. This could be equated to a dollar amount.
Another way math is useful around the house is with your electrical usage. With a little math, and some numbers from your utility bill, you can easily calculate how much money you spend leaving the lights on all the time. You can also compute the cost of microwaving your leftovers or playing computer games. For fun, I thought I would do a quick comparison of the cost of using a few different light bulbs to illuminate a room.
Incandescent
 CFL
 LED
 

Brightness (lumens)
 750
 800
 650

Power (watts)
 60
 13
 9

Cost Per 100 Hours*
 $6.72
 $1.46
 $1.01

Cost Per 8 Hours
 $0.54
 $0.12
 $0.08

The power of math enabled me to determine that the LED light has the lowest hourly cost associated with it (this does not account for the initial purchase price of the bulbs).
Exercise, Health, and Fitness
How can a little knowledge of math help with exercise, health and fitness? Well, there are plenty of places in this category for numbers to go. If you have ever tried to reduce your Body Mass Index by going on a diet, you've probably realized that counting calories was a good way to monitor your food intake. There are also several equations that you can use to calculate your body fat percentage on any given day. Obviously math can play a significant role in how someone progresses towards their weight loss goals.
If you have ever lifted weights, you have most likely used some math to determine how much weight you are lifting. Imagine how difficult the task of loading a barbell with weight would be if you could not add or multiply numbers. Most avid weight lifters like to keep records of all of their important numbers with regards to pumping iron. Most will be able to tell you what their one rep max is, as well has how much they can lift for a variety of sets and repetitions.
What about Algebra?
One thing that I often hear from the youngsters is that they think that Algebra is useless. Fortuneatly, this is incorrect. Not only does knowing Algebra help with your critical thinking skills, you can actually use it in everyday life as well. Here's an example from my personal life:
My car was low on coolant so I decided that I needed to fill up the reservoir with some more. I had a partially full jug of coolant that had been marked as a 70/30 mixture of antifreeze and water (70% antifreeze and 30% water). This was a problem as in most cases coolant mixtures should be 50% water and 50% antifreeze. So exactly how much distilled water should I add to the jug to make the resulting mixture 50/50? Here's where some critical thinking and Algebra comes in handy:
I weighed the water/coolant mixture and found that it weighed 6.5lbs. Now I can set up an algebraic equation to solve for the amount of water in pounds needed to reach a 50/50 mix. The equations are shown below:
(6.5lbs)(30% water) + (Xlbs)(100% water) = (6.5lbs + Xlbs)(50% Water)
Reducing the equation:
(195)+(100X)=(6.5+X)(50)
195 + 100X = 325 + 50X
Rearranging,
100X  50X = 325  195
50X = 130
X = 130/50 = 2.6lbs
Therefore, I needed to add 2.6lbs of distilled water to the 70/30 mixture to convert it to a 50/50 mixture. With a little math I was able to solve the problem  No guessing or trips to the store were needed!
Is that It?
The uses of math for the layperson are essentially endless. I could probably write several more hubs on how math is used in everyday life. Personally I use math on a daily basis to measure, track, and forecast many things. Whether it's computing the gasoline efficiency of my vehicles (or the efficiency of an electric vehicle for that matter), determining how much food to make for dinner, or calculating the power requirements of a new car stereo system, math is like a second and universal language that helps me make sense of the world.
Comments
Math is definitely treated like a red headed stepchild in our society. It's unfortunate, because as you said, it is essential to everyday functioning. I imagine a lack of basic math knowledge accounts (at least in part) for all those people drowning in debt with high interest credit cards.
Good one! May be, someday people might have a look at this post & at least a few will get some benefit! :)
Good one! May be, someday people might have a look at this post & at least a few will get some benefit! :)
I just love maths it is very useful in daily life!!!
I am horrible at maths, but I have decided to major in it  B.A./B.Sc. in Maths!
And I wish you'd been my math teacher/pal/whatev in school  maybe I would have been inspired to do better.
Wish me luck.
And this is a really great, articulate, and inspiring article. Thanks a lot.
I am so glad you wrote this article. I cringe every time I hear someone scoff at math and say "Do we really need all this stuff?" or like you said in the article when they say, "I'm never going to use this stuff!" Drives me crazy! I use math every day of my life in so many situations from simple tasks such as cooking to figuring out complex engineering problems, and everything in between.
That shirt is on sale, 30% off retail of $20.00. What's your price at the register?
I need to cut this recipe in half. How much is half of 3/4?
How much force do I need to propel this basketball 15 ft through the air at the right angle to hit the goal, taking into consideration parabolic motion? (Ok granted they probably aren't going to try to figure that one out. They'll just keep practicing, lol).
I shake my head every time I hear someone say they hate math. It is TRULY the universal language.
Super article. Thumbs UP!
I like mathematices very much ..
Mathematics is wallah wallah
but it is difficult to satisfy some one that how can we use mathematics in our daily life and allot of people asked about the practical use of mathematics .if some one explain it so please
The main problem which is arosed here in Pakistan that how we use integration and diffirential rather than area calculator or other common addition and substraction.
i like math because i love math
i hate math
Good day! I would like to use this article for my research. May I know the author's name for the citation? Thanks a lot.
Don't like or hate maths
Just feel it........
Nice
thanks a lot for this article. it will contribute greatly on a math business club am working on for schools which includes graphics stories, visual art and dram, social studies, emotional education and financial literacy. am so passionate about this project so i wish to get practical math questions on subsequent article from you. thanks again.
I love math, it's how I make a living.. and I'm glad not everybody is good in math. God made it that way so that we would need each other
This article was good . The example given would surely make everyone to think practical applications of mathematics. & here i'm proud to be a maths student.
24