Many people, particularly if they don’t home educate, may not realise how much math is ingrained into our daily lives. A world without math would make no sense! Math can be a subject that not every student excels at, but if they come to understand just how important it is, they may try a little more to understand it.
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Math doesn’t have to be done with a pencil and paper, or with a computer program (which wouldn’t exist without math); math is all around us, so let’s use some of these examples to help our students come to a better understanding of how it works. Sometimes that’s all it takes; just knowing how it works in real life. Here are a few examples of using practical math in everyday. And don’t worry if your child needs a little extra help in math; it’s not everyone’s favourite subject. If this is the case for you, you might consider hiring bringing in some outside help for a short time, the cost of tuition rates may be well worth it for your child to get a firm understanding of base concepts.
9 Ways To Find Practical Math In Everyday Life
The bus, the train, the plane, the subway, timetables are great! Learning how to read a timetable and learning the patterns involved can be fun for kids. Ask questions such as:
- How many stops between x and y?
- How long does it take to go from here to there?
- What time do we need to catch the train if we want to be at x by 10:00?
- How many trains must be on the line at one time to complete the stops in the time given?
- If your ticket costs x amount, how many tickets will they need to sell to pay for the conductors time if they make x amount per hour?
- And my daughter’s current favourite game is to take two numbers from the schedule and ask family members to multiply them! The first time she did this was on a packed train and the people around us were trying hard to control their laughter at her enthusiasm! She loved it so much, she’s done it several times, since.
One of our favourite ways to pass the time as we were waiting for the bus to arrive with a child I was childminding, was to count the cars that went past. Next in progression was to make a chart and chart the different colours and types of vehicles that drove past in a given time. Is there a particular type of vehicle (car, truck, bus) that goes past more frequently? Is there a variation of colours, or is there one colour that is more common? Why could be the reasons behind this? A fun winter element to this during a Canadian winter is to sit in your favourite local coffee shop and count how many vehicles in the parking lot have block heater cords hanging out from under their hoods; what’s the ratio?
If you have a home energy monitor then put it to practical use! How much does it cost to boil a kettle of water? Wash a load of laundry? How much will that use multiply up to over a week, a month, a year? Bring in other household appliances as well and discover what is the highest use of power? What can be done to lower the costs? Understanding where the energy is going helps us to be aware of how we are using the earth’s resources, and how it also impacts our budgets.
Let children help with budgeting. If you don’t want them involved in the whole process, then stick with the grocery budget or costing out supplies for a project that needs doing. Don’t forget about incidentals like fuel for picking up supplies, extra electricity used for power tools, extra nails, glue, and leaving some in reserve for unexpected costs as well. This will help them realise how much things do cost in ‘real life’ and give them the tools and knowledge to use in the future to keep themselves out of debt and save for things in advance with realistic goals.
Being from Saskatchewan, travel time is easily predictable. We rarely say Moose Jaw is 75km away; rather we say Moose Jaw is 45 minutes away (it works a little easier in the old system of driving 60 mph equals 1 mile a minute). Put those old math problems to actual use and go for a Sunday drive in the country and see how far your destination is, how long it takes you to drive there, and then calculate your average speed. It’s an interesting project; especially in areas where there’s more traffic, mountains, or windy roads.
My children love going through a shop and adding up a running total of our purchases. Then they compare their math with the total at the till. They pick out and hand over the payment, as well as mentally calculate how much change they should receive back. Our local shopkeepers have become so used to this that they hold the change back until my children declare how much it should be! The kids then count their change to ensure it’s correct. They’re also learning the “old fashioned” way of “counting back” change so that they can better understand the concept rather than just accepting that what the till says is correct or depending upon others to do all the work.
With the world economy shrinking and purchasing goods from around the world made easier, do some cost-comparisons. Is there a price difference between purchasing a schoolbook or Lego set in Canada, the USA, or further abroad? Take the exchange rate into consideration, as well as the shipping charges. And don’t forget about any taxes and duty you may be charged when it arrives. Where can you get the best deal? Track the exchange rate for a few days or a month, and see what difference that makes to the final price.
The next time you’re doing a diy project have your children do the calculations to figure out how much it will cost. How much grass seed will you need to cover your lawn, how many floor tiles, how much paint for the bedroom walls or the fence? This is an excellent way for children to learn why they need to know about perimeters and areas. If you’re brave enough, make your purchase according to their calculations and let them find out what happens. And don’t forget about incidentals like having to match up patterns, miss-cuts, nails, masking tape, drop cloths, paint rollers, etc. All those little things add up quickly and it’s easy to go over-budget.
It’s easy for children to say they want this or this for dinner, but when you have to live within a budget, you have to keep the costs always in mind. Meal planning over the course of a week or month means balancing a big meal or a celebration with a simple night of pasta and homemade sauce. A daily budget must be set and spread out over meals and snacks; it can be very tricky; especially when having well-balanced meals! Having your children help plan the meals and price out the ingredients either in the shop or online is a very good exercise.
If you find that your family puts wasted or unwanted food in the bin, another exercise is to calculate how much that costs the family over a week, a month, or a year. Then figure out what could have been purchased for that price; it can be a real eye-opener and help our children think about food waste.
There you have it; 9 reasons why math is practical and useful in everyday life that students may not think of. Of course, there are many more; when do you find yourself using math in your average day? What wouldn’t you be able to do without a good foundation in math? Share your uses in the comments!