The Point of Mathematics

So its safe to assume nearly everyone has heard students ask “Well when am I actually going to use this?” in reference to math and other school subjects. Well let us examine just how math is used in the “real world”

Upon stepping into a Calculus II class, I quickly realized that some people practically eat, sleep, and breath mathematics. Engineers use Calculus as often as the average person uses the basic four functions. But this kind of person is the exception, not the rule.

The most obvious field in which mathematics is used is science. Math can be used to describe decay rates, growth rates, for estimating numbers of bacteria and other such things, to predict the probablity of an event occuring over a period of time, and countless other things. Chemistry and Physics are among the most math heavy sciences, Biology being slightly less math oriented.

The students’ response at this point might be “Well I’m not going into the science field”. Math is used in many, many disciplines. Business majors, for example, have to take Calculus and statistics, to understand rates related to business, to know how statistics can be manipulated, and to understand data concerning earnings and other business activities. Nurses, as another example, have to have at least a rudimentary understanding of mathematics to properly measure medications. Even something such as a historian might need math to put a proper date on an event.

At this point many students would conceed that maybe they will need math. But the dogged student who is completely convinced that they have no need of mathematics may still argue. One valid argument left would be “But I’m majoring in Art; what do I need math for?”

Math is necessary for day to day life. You need math to balance a check book, to do your taxes, and for many other things. Math is useful for shopping. Say theres a 15% off sale. If you don’t know percentage math, you aren’t quite sure what you’ll be saving.

True, not everyone really needs Calculus. To be honest, a lot of people will never need to use Algebra outside of a classroom. But the higher you get in mathematics, the more you begin to realize just how useful it is. I use Algebra outside of class on a day to day basis because I’ve found I can get quicker results than using simple mathematics. So no, that artist won’t be using math to paint on a canvas, and that nurse won’t need to know Pi to ten places, but everyone needs mathematics to a certain degree, and mathematics can be very useful in everyday life.