When Am I EVER Going to Have to Use This?!
Frustrated and overwhelmed students often throw down their pencils in defeat, wondering when they will ever have to apply complex math problems in their daily lives, and wonder why they even have to learn it. Parents who have an answer to this common question may have the secret weapon to keeping their frustrated kids from giving up. Next time your child asks “When are we EVER going to use this in real life?” answer their questions with these real world examples:
When they wake up in the morning at 6:42 and their alarm is set for 7, a quick subtraction problem will help them realize they have 18 more glorious minutes of sleep left. When they are helping to make pancakes in the morning, knowing how to determine the amount the flour and the milk is simple practice in measurement. Counting out the dollars and cents to the lunch lady, and figuring out if they have enough for an extra cookie would be difficult if they weren’t proficient in counting currency. When they are running late to class, figuring out the quickest way across the school from the library to math class can be done thanks to geometry. When report card time rolls around, and they receive their test scores in English, they can quickly determine the fate of their weekend by finding the average of their last few test scores and figuring out the average grade in the class. High school students who are driving to and from school use estimation, averages, speed, velocity and distances as they make their way from point A to point B. When they pull up to the gas tank and see gas is $1.56 a litre and they only have $25 to spend, they’ll be using algebra to determine how much gas to pump. If your child is active in sports they will use probability to determine the outcome of their next game, match or race. When they head off to college and want to figure out how long it’ll take to pay off their student loans or (Gasp!) credit card debt, they’ll be using calculus. And all of this just applies to your child while they are in school. When they enter the “real world” they will see math everywhere, from when they use a map (geometry) to when they sit down and mange their finances (basic math.) Careers such as architecture, education, finance, law, and medicine all rely heavily on being proficient in the area of mathematics. And what if your struggling mathematician responds with “But I’m going to be a movie star/writer/rapper/shark feeder, not a doctor or an accountant!” remind them that movie stars have a lot of money coming in and out that needs to be added, subtracted, divided and averaged, writers have to calculate their rates based on word counts, rappers use fractions to break music and lyrics up into specific counts, and shark feeders use statistics to study the data they collect when studying sharks.
Even if you don’t have an answer as to when or how your child will ever use a specific math formula in the real world, remind them that although math is about getting the right answer, it is also about teaching you how to think outside of the box and increases your problem solving skills, and no matter who you are, you’ll always have problems to solve.