Will I ever use maths in real life?

Maths and time

Every maths teacher knows how it feels to be asked that age-old question, “but when will I use this in real life?” I remember back when I was at school, we were all forced to learn our times tables. When I asked the teacher, “why do I need to learn all of this when I could just use a calculator?” she said, “you’re going to need maths skills, because nobody carries a calculator around with them all day, do they?”

Of course, with the rise of the smartphone, it turned out she was wrong about the calculator thing. But she was right about the need for having good maths skills. After all, maths really is all around us. Here are some of the ways maths pops up in our everyday life. Maths teachers, if you’re looking for real life examples to use in the classroom, this is fertile ground.

Maths in construction

For any construction worker, architect or engineer, maths is an integral part of their job. Regardless of how high up the food chain you are, maths will come into play. How many bags of cement will you need to lay the slab? How strong do the load bearing beams need to be to support the structure? How much timber will you need to buy? Measuring amounts, angles, widths, depths, lengths, calculating an estimate of the total cost - these are all intricately tied to maths skills, And sorry folks, even if you have a calculator on hand, you’re still going to need to have a good foundation in maths to know what to do with it.

Maths when you go shopping

Okay, so you might not grow up to work in construction, but everyone needs to go shopping regularly, and maths plays an obvious role here. From estimating your total bill, calculating discounts using percentages, trying to work out how much food to buy to feed a certain number of people, calculating price per unit to decide which is the best deal - these all require good math skills.

Maths in the kitchen

Maths is very hard to avoid when it comes to cooking. In fact, cooking is a real science, and when you get it right, the rewards can be delicious. Following recipes require measuring ingredients, working out fractions if you’re halving or doubling the recipe, converting metric to US standard units, or Fahrenheit to Celsius, working out ratios, timings and temperatures… It’s all tied to having a sound foundation in maths.


Maths keeps our suspension bridges suspended

Maths and travel

These days, when it comes to travel, a lot of the maths is done for us. Technology makes it easy to calculate distances and estimated times to travel. Websites and apps allow us to easily convert timezones or different currencies. But maths still comes into play when you’re budgeting for your holiday, comparing flight or hotel deals, or perhaps calculating how much tax or tip you’ll need to pay.

Maths when eating out

A menu is a classic example of maths in action. The restaurant has given each meal a price based on the cost of the ingredients and the time it will take to prepare it. You, the customer, will be adding up and comparing totals from the menu as you go, to decide which meal you want. How many bottles of wine between how many guests? Will you be dividing the bill depending on what each person consumed?

Maths and time

If you’re having a busy day, maths is key to helping you stay on time. From calculating meetings, travel time, bus and train timetables, how long a taxi journey might take, how much time you’re going to need to get a particular task completed - maths is essential to being able to adequately plan your day.

Of course, this is all the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the role maths plays in our daily lives. Maths is in the smartphones we use, the vehicles we travel in, the financial systems we interact with, the public services that govern us. When we visit the doctor, if we’re admitted to hospital, if we take out a loan, if we’re looking at our daily planner… maths is all in there somewhere, and it helps to keep us safe, happy, healthy and running on time.