Math: What is it good for?

A new school year has begun, and soon I will have a new group of after-school math club students. At the first session, I always like to just talk to the kids about why math is important, in terms of future careers, as well as, in everyday life. After all, few are going to grow up to be mathematicians, so why do they need all this math anyway?

I start by asking them to think of ways they or the grown-ups in their family use math:

  • Dividing something to share,
  • Dealing with money – shopping, tipping, budgeting
  • Art and craft projects (measuring, buying the right amount of supplies),
  • Home improvement projects,
  • Time management

Next, we think about some of the careers that use math:

  • Scientists and engineers
  • Computer programmers
  • Medical professionals (doctors, nurses, technicians),
  • Designers
  • Contractors and landscapers
  • Bankers, accountants, and other finance professionals
  • Anyone who owns a business – budgets and accounting

This year, I plan to also show them how math is important in lots of fields and shows up often in scientific articles. Here are just a few recent headlines:

In the past, I have finished off the lesson, by showing this video about designing the Mars Curiosity Lander. Lots of math and WAY COOL!

This year, I plan to show this great video about why math is cool and interesting and important for many kinds of careers.

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