Without Math We Are Cave Men Eating Mud
That is a statement made by a math teacher on the TV show Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide. It is also something that I have to remind my kids of, frequently. Nathaniel really enjoys doing Science. He could read about Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton all day. Benjamin loves to read literature. He reads his own books and sometimes reads Samuel’s. Occasionally I have caught him reading some of Nathaniel’s books. Samuel loves to read history. The gorier the better in his mind. But then math time comes along and they are all asking ,”Can’t I do _______ first?” They sometimes ask how they are going to need math if they are not going to be math teachers. I have started trying to point out ways to them that math is necessary and useful. Perhaps these reasons for math can be helpful to others, as well.
Scientist. I am always telling Nathaniel that if he wants to be a scientist, he is going to have to learn math and learn more than the average person. As he gets older he is beginning to see that to progress in his scientific studies (and actually understand what he is reading) he has to know his math. It is not enough to know a particular formula, you need to understand what the formula is saying and how to solve it.
Chef. Sometimes Benjamin says he wants to be a chef. That is great. How he thinks he can get away with being a chef and not knowing how to do math is beyond me. Converting recipes from the metric system is not easy if you do not know what the metric system is . Doubling or tripling a recipe is going to take much less time than mixing one batch right after another. If you do not understand basic math how do you know how much food to prepare in proportion to the number of people you are serving? (These are actually things that apply not only to pros, but home-cooks as well)
Cashier This is something we see on a pretty regular basis. Cashier punches a wrong button on the register and then goes berserk trying to figure out how much customer actually owes. Sometimes the mistake is made after the total is figured up and the customer is paying. Then the cashier panics not knowing how much change the customer is supposed to receive. Some businesses are very strict on their cashiers. A drawer that comes up not matching the total sales can result in probation or even job loss.
Deli clerk People who get meat from a deli often ask for a specific amount. As a matter of fact I asked for 6 ounces of Canadian Bacon once at the Publix Deli. Their scale measures in hundredths of a pound. I learned this that day. The lady behind the counter looked at me strange when I asked. She sliced one very small piece and placed it on the scale. “Are you sure you only want 6 ounces? Look, this is .06 by itself.” Six ounces is a little under half a pound so I just asked for a half-pound. (It is .375, in case you are wondering) So now I ask for easy amounts for them to slice.
Seamstress If you are planning to make your own clothes, you need to know how much fabric and accessories are needed. Along the same lines would be making quilts. Quilt making requires careful planning. You need to know how much of each type of fabric is needed for your quilt pattern. The size of the quilt also affects the required amount of fabric.
Order Receiver Say your job is to be sure that orders are received for your place of business. Say they are big orders. It would be easier and take less time to say “Eight rows of boxes each stacked four high. 32,” rather than counting out 32 individual boxes.
There are many other ways we could talk about using math in our everyday lives such as balancing our checkbooks, planning a budget, etc.. but for brevity’s sake I’ll think this will have to suffice. I think it is safe to say that math is all around us. We need it to live our lives as productive citizens.