For so many of us, the importance of mathematics at school is questionable, because we simply have mental blocks against it. Unfortunately, these blocks originate in the formative years of learning when we literally don’t spend enough time understanding maths terminology or are intimidated by the classroom pressure or teacher. All of these things create rocky foundations on which to build our maths learning. This resistance to maths can lead to the following questions or negative statements:
I don’t understand how maths is used in our daily life!
I just don’t get the importance of mathematics!
I don’t understand why maths is important!
Where exactly is mathematics used in life?
Can you relate?
The truth is that although we are first introduced to maths at school, it is extremely relevant in our daily lives. In fact, from when we are young, to well into our old age, we are constantly using our maths skills. Think about it - the importance of mathematics cannot be overstated because we use it wherever we go from a trip to the shops to how we play sport.
Perhaps you realise the importance of maths but also can relate to this sentiment of frustration. You are not alone; this is a topic that so many people can relate to. What is interesting though is that some of the reasons why we find maths difficult could surprise you.
So, keep reading because in this article we will look at why maths is important, as well as the application of mathematics in day to day life. And you will be encouraged.
Why Maths is Important Form an Early Age
Of course, we cannot know what is going on in the heads of babies and toddlers who only communicate through noises and facial expressions. However, language acquisition does start at a young age when they assimilate their observations to understand the world.
Today, there is much more knowledge available on both the cognitive development of children and their learning abilities. Astoundingly, when it comes to maths studies run by Dr. Elizabeth S. Spelke from Harvard University showed that by the age of only six months, babies have the ability to do the following:
- Estimate quantities visually
- Recognise the difference between two numbers
- Babies who are exposed to numbers from a young age are likely to have less difficulty with maths at a later age
You may be wondering exactly how is mathematics used by a toddler? In a child’s first two years they are actually able to hone their estimation and number skills. In fact, even while they are so busy learning to talk and walk, they are able to put words to mathematical concepts and this is how even at that age, there is an application of mathematics in day to day life.
Paediatrician Hallam Hurt corroborated this fact in 1980 when he discovered that by encouraging infants to show an interest in numbers is beneficial and that those who receive more attention in this regard will have a higher IQ.
There is no doubt, exposing children to numbers, and mathematics used for early childhood development is extremely effective.
The Effectiveness of Number Discovery for Children
When it comes to why maths is important from a young age, one of the reasons is because it plays such a fundamental role throughout our academic years. From as young as nursery school-age children learn the fundamentals of maths by playing games which facilitates the following:
- Knowing how numbers work. For example, spotting the difference between a digit, tens, or hundreds.
- Gaining an appreciation for the importance of mathematics.
- Understanding how numbers relate to each other.
As the child progresses to primary school the maths syllabus in South Africa is generally divided up as follow:
- Numbers, Operations, and Relationships
- Patterns, Functions, and Algebra
- Space and Shape (geometry)
- Data Handling
The reason why maths is important at primary school is because if a child is able to master the above concepts, the application of mathematics in day to day life, as well as maths education at a higher level is made easier. Sadly, studies in the UK have shown that 25% of children fail to understand the basics of maths by the time they finish primary school. In South Africa, maths literacy statistics in primary school children are borderline devastating.
In a 2015 national survey (TIMSS-N 2015) it was revealed that 61% of Grade 5 learners were unable to add and subtract, had no multiplication skills by one-digit numbers, and could not solve simple story sums.
Once grasped, the benefits of maths uses in daily life can include amongst many other things, the honing of logical thinking and reasoning skills as well as the ability to do mental arithmetic on the run.
It is natural that maths can seem complex and abstract, especially when there is no link to how maths is used in our daily life, and this is really where so much maths literacy and comprehension is lost.
When children are taught the application of mathematics in day to day life, the subject takes on tangible meaning. When learners appreciate where and how mathematics is used, they begin to understand why maths is important and suddenly it becomes rewarding rather than a burden.
As a parent, it is easier than you think to demonstrate maths uses in daily life. Once you are aware that this is a foundational antidote to mental blocks that can develop for maths learners, you will find everyday examples that truly develop this essential thinking.
How Maths is Used in Our Daily Life
Learners all over the world tend to breathe a sigh of relief after their last maths exams, but in reality, none of us are ever finished with maths, there are just too many maths uses in daily life!
So even though we have said goodbye to the theory of trigonometry, fractions, and differential equations, let’s take a look at how maths is used in our daily life.
When is mathematics used? Budgeting! Of course, you might have software like Excel to help you but if you don’t know how to create formulae it could get very complicated for you!
Other maths uses in daily life, especially in that all-important topic of personal finance include the following:
- Everyday budgeting: Being able to plan and execute your spending in ways that avoid debt and enable you to save for your future is critical to a happy life.
- Long-term financial projects: Knowing how to compare financial structures if you need to take out a bond on a home for instance is part of adult life!
- Taxes: Ensuring that your tax return is up to date is one way of ensuring your financial health!
- Starting a business: For any entrepreneur or small business owner, knowing how to budget, plan, purchase, and forecast cash flow are all necessary skills. These are excellent examples of how maths is used in our daily life.
- Understanding the global economy: Believe it or not, the complexities of macroeconomics play a significant role in our personal finance.
Can Maths Help Manage Your Money?
It is obvious that knowing how to manage your income and expenditure is reliant on your maths ability. Not only that but having a good handle on your money can give you invaluable peace of mind and make sure that you minimise your financial stress.
Even Maths and Sport Have a Relationship!
At first, it might be hard to believe but maths can have a significant impact on sports performance. When maths and new technology combine to develop performance analytics tools, athletes can take their personal best to another level.
When it comes to an elite athlete's performance here are some of the aspects that are measurable using mathematics:
- Muscle strength
- Body Mass Index (BMI)
- Heart rate
- Rate of recovery
- Level of fatigue
All of this can help athletes to go further, avoid injury, optimise recovery, and of course, improve technique.
In fact, sports scientists are always coming up with new measurement tools, this is evident when one considers the 2012 London Olympics where 32 records were broken. Additionally, don’t forget the 2014 Football World Cup where the German team, who won, claimed that technology played an important role in their training.
There’s absolutely no doubt that maths is in our everyday life and it’s here to stay.
Developing strong foundations during formative school years is critical which is why so many parents and learners opt for private maths tuition to help them keep up, stay focused, and in the end, actually enjoy maths. Private maths tutors are located all over South Africa and if you use the Superprof website, you could even search by location and find one near you.