Math in the real world: everyday applications and 5 example problems for your class

Math usually has a bad reputation among students. Their disengagement and negative attitudes towards this subject are part of the day-to-day concerns of mathematics teachers.

One reason for this is that topics such as algebra and calculus often feel quite abstract and far removed from our realities. Many students wonder: What’s the point of studying this?

Luckily, connecting mathematics with its applications can make the material feel less abstract and more interesting. It shows students the relevance of what they are learning and helps to foster a deeper understanding of maths.

Below, we will see how math is used in real life and give you 5 example problems.

Why is math important in the real world?

The focus on numeracy is growing across the globe. According to Geiger et al., (2015, p. 531), this concept is “used to identify the knowledge and capabilities required to accommodate the mathematical demands of private and public life, and to participate in society as informed, reflective, and contributing citizens”.

Therefore, letting the students make sense of the mathematical content they learn can have a significant positive impact on their lives.

Let’s get to know some math applications.

1. Math helps us understand our context

Mathematics allows us to identify patterns and make predictions. Nowadays, this subject is crucial to be a well-informed person. As this EdSurge article explains, math is necessary to become 21st-century critical thinkers.

If we take a look at the news, we can observe the omnipresence of statistics and data visualizations. To analyze this information, we need to grasp concepts like correlation or causality and put our mathematical thinking into practice.

We could notice the importance of understanding diverse graphics related to epidemiology during the pandemic. Although many patients get lost in numbers, health numeracy is basic to understanding medical information and making informed decisions (Ancker & Kaufman, 2007). Math can save your life!

2. Math is essential to have good job prospects

In today’s labor market, math skills are fundamental to increasing your students’ employability. We can think immediately about computer science, cryptography, or robotics.

However, this not only applies to STEM disciplines but also to other areas such as social sciences. People from more creative backgrounds can need mathematical knowledge too. For example, geometry is useful for artistic projects.

Besides, math helps us perform even the most basic tasks related to planning or calculating budgets.

3. Math is necessary for a large number of day-to-day activities

Math has incalculable value for our real life. We need to measure proportions when cooking, splitting the bill after having dinner with friends, doing groceries, estimating how likely your team is to win a competition, etc. Math enhances our capacity to deal with these kinds of day-to-day challenges.

4. Bonus point! There is beauty in math

Throughout history, mathematics has been incorporated into art and architecture in Western and Eastern cultures (Gamwell, 2015).

Further, we can find beauty in nature thanks to underlying mathematical principles. As Stewart (2017) illustrates, there are fascinating patterns in flowers, dunes, zebras’ stripes, snowflakes, or spiderwebs.

spider web

Example of a pattern in nature

Real-world math problems

Contextualized problems make mathematics more accessible and even enjoyable. They can help students not only to pass their exams but will also increase their motivation and boost active learning.

In SOWISO’s platform, many exercises present a real-life problem that needs to be solved using mathematics. To do so, our in-house mathematicians have tried to draw inspiration from as many different fields as possible. Here you can see some of our examples.

1. Math in personal finance

Real-life math problem

Screenshot of a SOWISO’s problem. We have developed a Financial Arithmetic course (currently only available in Dutch).

2. Math in sports

Real-life math problem

Screenshot of an exercise in the SOWISO learning platform.

3. Math in engineering & product design

Real-life math problem

Screenshot of an exercise in the SOWISO learning platform.

4. Math in architecture

Real-life math problem

Screenshot of an exercise in the SOWISO learning platform.

5. Math in scientific research

Real-life math problem

Screenshot of an exercise in the SOWISO learning platform.

If you need some extra inspiration, TedEd has developed a series of videos about Math in Real Life. There you can explore a wide variety of topics like the unexpected connections of mathematics with online dating or Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

Do you want to learn more about our platform? Drop us a line or check our homepage.


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