Are We Really Going to Use This in Real Life? Practical Applications of Mathematical Concepts

No matter where we look, math is everywhere. From the games we play on our phones to the very streets we drive on, mathematical concepts were used to create much of everything we interact with on a daily basis. Math isn’t just a theoretical pursuit. Here are nine everyday uses for mathematical concepts that you may not have thought about.

Cooking

From comparing prices at the grocery store and making sure you buy enough of each ingredient to finally putting together a meal, math marks every step of the cooking process. Conversions are key if you only have certain measuring utensils or if you are trying to double a recipe. Proper measurements and conversions are even more important if you are baking as most baked goods require you to follow the recipe precisely. Math also helps determine how much of your favorite recipe you can cook based on what you have available to you.

Pricing Food Products

Concepts like supply and demand are essential to properly pricing food products in a business. If you don’t make a profit on your product you’ll end up out of business no matter how good it is, so appropriately pricing products like eggs, milk, and flour are critical to success. Setting prices and other business decision rely heavily on an understanding of math. For example, it is important to know the cost of production for various food products, how much must be spent on transportation and marketing and finally how much profit will remain at each price point, provided the price is attractive for consumers.

Sports Performance

Understanding mathematical concepts helps with a variety of sports-related fields. Statistics are a key part of any sport, particularly if you are choosing what team to support in a competition. Batting averages in baseball, win-loss percentages in football and effective field goal percentages in basketball all rely on statistical analysis, especially when projecting these numbers into the future to predict the results of a game. Mathematics can play an even more vital role in sports as well. Coaches and team captains use mathematical concepts to choose batting order, understand the optimal routine for a figure skater that takes the greatest advantage of physics and more.

Urban Planning

Urban planners spend their time designing and expanding cities to accommodate growing populations and changes in lifestyles. This relies heavily on mathematical models. For example, urban planners can predict how many cars move through an intersection in a given hour then expand this model to include nearby intersections to determine how long a traffic light needs to stay on to minimize traffic. Urban planners also work closely with city zoning laws to help determine where new houses need to be built, whether a community needs more food services or whether the well-being of the community can be improved by adding in parks and green space. All of these analytical questions require the use of mathematics.

Fashion Design

It may not seem like math is vital to a creative endeavor like fashion design, but without mathematics, much of the clothes we wear or see on the runway would not be produced. Many designers have been inspired by mathematical concepts and have brought inspiration from geometry and physics to the runway. Math plays a simpler role in fashion design as well. Geometry, conversions and even algebra are key to knowing how much material to use for a garment, converting a 2D design on paper into a 3D article of clothing a model can wear and understanding how to tailor a garment to perfectly fit someone’s body.

Music Production

Pattern recognition, a part of math, is a key part of good music production and composing. Harmonics, a key part of music theory, rely heavily on an understanding of trigonometry and algebra. It uses the concept of sine and cosine waves to understand how to layer notes in a way that sounds optimized to the human ear. Harmonics was even referred to by early mathematicians as the core of musical harmony. Acoustic designers also use their understanding of how sound waves move and interact with objects to design instruments, equipment and even physical spaces that make the music sound as good as possible for the musicians and the audience alike.

Traveling

Math is extremely important when traveling. Creating a budget for any vacation is essential to make sure you do not overspend. This is complicated further if you are traveling to a foreign country that uses a different currency. You will often have to convert between currencies on the fly, requiring good math skills. Driving a long distance also makes use of math. If you know the average speed you will be driving, you can predict how long it will take you to get to your destination. You will also need to account for how long you can drive without needing to stop for gas based on the efficiency of your car.

Banking

There are a lot of ways that math becomes important when handling your personal finances. Especially if you are using a checking account or a debit card, you want to know your current balance to prevent overdraft fees and be able to calculate your running balance over the month. If you have a savings account or a Certificate of Deposit, you also want to be able to calculate how much interest you will earn. It is important to remember the difference between simple and compound interest to find out which bank will give you the best rates. Finally, if you are paying off debt, understanding interest rates may help you pay less overall.

Computer Programming

Every program you run on your computer or video game you play is based on mathematical concepts and the problem-solving skills that knowing these concepts gives. For example, rendering 3D images properly in games requires an understanding of matrix math and linear algebra. If a program is intended to predict outcomes or use artificial intelligence, it likely is based on statistical models or even calculus.

Almost every aspect of our lives is touched in some way by mathematics. It can be easy to discount understanding mathematical concepts as we rarely see someone in the professional world working through multiplication tables or geometry problems, but the underlying concepts behind math are often at the core of any industry.

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