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Mathematics is often considered a difficult subject by students. One of the numerous reasons behind this is that topics such as algebra and calculus often seem abstract and disconnected from our daily lives, leaving many students questioning the practicality of studying them.

However, connecting mathematics with real-life applications can make the subject matter less abstract and more engaging. This approach helps students understand its relevance and can lead to deeper comprehension, enabling them to apply their mathematical knowledge and skills to future scenarios.

In this blog post, we will explore how mathematics is used in real-life situations and provide five example problems to illustrate its applications.

The focus on numeracy is growing across the globe. According to Geiger et al. (2015, p. 531), this concept is “used to identify the knowledge and capabilities required to accommodate the mathematical demands of private and public life, and to participate in society as informed, reflective, and contributing citizens”.

Therefore, letting the students make sense of the mathematical content they learn can have a significant positive impact on multiple dimensions of their lives.

Let’s get to know some math applications.

Mathematics allows us to identify patterns and make predictions. Nowadays, this subject is crucial to be a well-informed person. As this EdSurge article explains, math is necessary to become 21st-century critical thinkers.

If we take a look at the news, we can observe the omnipresence of statistics and data visualizations. To analyze this information, we need to grasp concepts like correlation or causality and put our mathematical thinking into practice.

We could notice the importance of understanding diverse graphics related to epidemiology during the pandemic. Although many patients get lost in numbers, health numeracy is basic to understanding medical information and making informed decisions (Ancker & Kaufman, 2007). Math can save your life!

In today’s labor market, math skills are fundamental to increasing your students’ employability. We can think immediately about computer science, cryptography, or robotics.

However, this not only applies to STEM disciplines but also to other areas such as social sciences. People from more creative backgrounds can need mathematical knowledge too. For example, geometry is useful for artistic and design projects.

Besides, math helps us perform even the most basic tasks related to planning or calculating budgets.

Math has incalculable value for our real life. We need to measure proportions when cooking, splitting the bill after having dinner with friends, doing groceries, estimating how likely our team is to win a competition, etc. Math enhances our capacity to deal with these kinds of day-to-day challenges.

Throughout history, mathematics has significantly influenced art and architecture in both Western and Eastern cultures (Gamwell, 2015). Its impact can be traced back to multiple eras, like the classical period, the Chinese dynasties, and the Western Renaissance. Today, its influence can also be found in contemporary art and architecture.

Additionally, we can appreciate the beauty of nature due to its underlying mathematical principles. As Stewart (2017) shows in the book “The Beauty of Numbers in Nature: Mathematical Patterns and Principles from the Natural World” (edited by MIT Press), there are fascinating patterns in flowers, dunes, zebras’ stripes, snowflakes, and spiderwebs.

Contextualized problems make mathematics more accessible and enjoyable. They can help students develop their critical thinking, increase their motivation, and boost active learning.

In SOWISO’s platform, many exercises present a real-life problem that needs to be solved using mathematics. To do so, our in-house mathematicians have created an extension with applications for our best-selling course, Basic Math.

Each chapter in Basic Math now includes an extra package with exercises demonstrating the practical applications of the theory covered. This extension is ideal for higher education Science and Engineering programs. Soon, we will add an extension for Social Sciences.

Since students’ experiences are diverse, our platform is tailored to various learning backgrounds and needs. With features like randomized exercises and automated personalized feedback, we help students practice as much as they want while supporting them on their unique journeys.

As you can see below, SOWISO guides students towards the solution, providing hints and constructive feedback so they can master their math at their own pace. You can see examples of our new exercises and how the platform works here.

If you need extra inspiration, TEDEd has developed a series of videos about Math in Real Life. There, you can explore various topics like the unexpected connections of mathematics with online dating or Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

- Ancker, J. S., & Kaufman, D. (2007). Rethinking health numeracy: a multidisciplinary literature review. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 14(6), 713-721.
- Burdman, P. (2020, October 26). Let’s Make Math Education Relevant for Real Life. EdSurge. https://www.edsurge.com/news/2020-10-26-let-s-make-math-education-relevant-for-real-life
- Gamwell, L. (2015). Mathematics: Geometries of beauty. Nature, 528(7583), 476-477.
- Geiger, V., Goos, M., & Forgasz, H. (2015). A rich interpretation of numeracy for the 21st century: A survey of the state of the field. ZDM, 47(4), 531-548.
- Stewart, I. (2017). The Beauty of Numbers in Nature: Mathematical Patterns and Principles from the Natural World. MIT Press.