An unusual conjecture I suspect. In this short article, I’ll seek to expound my view. First-off though, let me be clear that this article is not inspired by the “maths for all post-16 year old school students” debate. This soundbite from Rishi Sunak I believe has much more to do with distracting people from the government’s poor performance than that of a desire to enhance student’s educational experience.
But I’ve heard many people express a view along the lines of “…never needed it”; “…don’t use it”; “…pointless subject” etc. As a scientist and maths tutor, I’m biased of course but for those who are thinking thoughts as above, you may like to consider that you DO use maths all the time.
The maths you have been taught is practical and directly relevant. However, I do understand that the way it is/was taught – which itself could well be the subject of an article on motivational teaching within a rigid curriculum! – is very important.
Maths is not just about numbers
Perhaps the most important think to recognise is that maths is not just about numbers. Using numbers is arithmetic. This is a (key) part of maths but only one part. At its highest level, maths is about problem-solving.
I offer the following examples of everyday cases where you use your maths ability…
- Travel. You know how speed distance and time are inter-related and work how long it’s going to take you to get to your destination.
- Moving things. You use the principles of momentum and levers as second nature.
- Kitchen. You know that more liquid takes longer to boil; that turning the heat (energy) up boils things quicker; You measure (or guess in my case!) out ingredients. You use an inherent appreciation of density.
- Money. You use basic arithmetic all the time. You use compound interest when looking at loans/mortgages.
- Taxes. VAT and taxation use percentages.
- Bedroom. You use sinusoidal motion (simple harmonic motion) in let’s just say the more pleasurable aspects of activity in this room
- Algebra. Yes, you use this too! Shopping for multiples of single items is a classic example.
- Dog walking. When you throw them a ball, you’re using what you know of ballistics (forces, vectors, mass and acceleration)
- Direction finding and route selection. You use geometry including Pythagoras’ theorem. You also use vectors and graph theory even if you didn’t learn these terms.
Maths is like love. It’s all around you and if you look for it, you can see it permeates everything we do
Enjoy your weekend – the 6th & 7th days of the ‘week’ within our (mathematically) defined calendar.