How many times have you heard your child say: “Why do I need to learn this ―I will never need to use this in real life?” When it comes to math, not only have we all have heard this, but we have all probably felt this way ourselves at one point in time. However, math really does matter, and we do not often realize how much we need it in everyday life in order to manage and function. In fact, math is an integral part of daily life and without it we would all be lost.

Let me give some concrete examples to illustrate the point. In cooking and baking we use fractions and conversions; when we want to go on a diet we work with proportions and daily recommended values that are in percentages; when we go grocery shopping we are comparing brands, estimating the bill, we are budgeting, using addition and subtraction, and we are working with discount coupons.

If you have ever tried to renovate or paint a room in your home you are working with measurements, conversions, geometry and estimations all at the same time! In business we calculate targets, make projections, estimate sales and costs before they are incurred, calculate deductions and salaries, manage pension funds, to name only a few.

When travelling we are working with converting the value of money, estimating travel times relative to distances, looking for the fastest routes, calculating gas consumption ―all of this is practically applied math!

If you have ever tried to split a bill in a restaurant, calculate a tip, buy a car, balance your checkbook, hang a picture, follow a recipe or buy grass seed for your lawn, you are using mathematical concepts that you have been taught in school. When you look at a logo for a company or a popular brand, you will see geometry in action. When you are dividing a pizza so everyone can get an equal slice, you are using fractions.

When you look at nature, you will see symmetry in a butterfly, or on a flower. When you look at architecture you are seeing angles, geometric shapes and measurement in a real life context. So yes, math is everywhere and it is important!

Today, teaching math is no longer only about memorizing the times tables and doing rote calculations. It is about teaching and learning using these practical applications, making the concepts meaningful and presented in a real context to solve everyday problems. Students need a solid understanding of the basic arithmetic concepts in order to be able to apply them in new situations that they may not have encountered before.

While arithmetic is the skill of calculation, numeracy is the skill of number sense. By this we mean the ability to understand that a calculation is correct or incorrect ―number sense is a good way to think of this. It helps us realize when the result of a calculation is way off even without checking.

While the use of calculators may have made arithmetic skills seem less important, numeracy or number sense has taken on a more important role because it allows us to realize when an answer we have obtained is incorrect. Knowing the “reasonableness” of an answer is an important skill that needs to be mastered for mathematical success in school, in the world of work and in life.

Often our students struggle with mathematics because it is hard for them to see the logic behind the calculations. The temptation is to try to memorize rather than try to understand the underlying principles behind the calculations.

This is the challenge of our teachers today ―to make learning math fun and meaningful while still instilling a strong sense of the basic concepts. We use many different means including videos and other forms of electronic media and software tools to allow students to review and move forward at their own pace. But above all, the goal is to make connections to real life and to instill in our students a notion of the importance of math in real life.

So the next time you hear “Why do I need to learn fractions, or trigonometry or geometry?” you will be able to answer with confidence:

“Because you will use it in real life”.

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