Real Life Math: 7 Practical Examples
You don’t have to look very hard to realize that math is around us all the time and impacts our lives on a daily basis.
Your students may not realize just how often they are encountering math in what they do every day.
Does anyone in your home play a musical instrument? Then they are using time signatures and notes, which all represent numbers and counting. And yes…that’s math!
Do you grocery shop? Most moms myself included feel like they live at the grocery store! Price comparison is something that I do every time I grocery shop for our large family of 8, I am always looking for the most bang for my buck and knowing how to use math to make sure I am getting the best deal is essential.
When I come home I am taking those ingredients I purchased and making meals and usually doubling, tripling or quadrupling my recipes, again math at work. There are many ways to incorporate math without sitting at the table doing a math lesson or working problems on paper.
Regardless, if math is your child’s favorite subject, or if math is a struggle, we cannot get through life without it.
Here are some great ways to incorporate math into your everyday living and get your kids involved in areas of life where math is impactful.
How to Incorporate Math into Your Everyday Life
Ironically, I work for a company that sells a homeschool math curriculum and some of my kids love math, while others will do whatever they can to avoid anything that looks like math!
Getting my kids excited about logic and puzzles (which is really what math is) and convincing them that they can’t avoid it, and that it is all around us and can be fun, is a mission that I am happy to undertake.
1) Spot the Math
A fun way to do this is play “spot the math” for a week and see who notices the most examples! You might be really surprised with the results.
At any age you can begin to explore all the ways math impacts us daily.
While we would all love to eat whatever we want, most of us have to live within a grocery budget, keeping cost in mind as we meal plan. Meals, snacks, celebrations, holidays these can all impact the monthly grocery budget.
Have your kids help plan the meals, find out what the meals cost per person, and price compare ingredients to get the best deals. You can take it further with online shopping. Is it more cost effective to order it online and have it delivered, or drive to a retail store to buy it in person? What are the pros and cons? Time is money!
3) DIY Projects
Does it make more sense to buy something or make it yourself?
Have your kids choose a project, like a bookshelf. Is it better to buy one prebuild, an assembly kit, or buy the raw materials and build it yourself? These are all questions we can answer with math and equations!
4) Exchange Rates
The world economy is shrinking, and purchasing goods from around the world is getting easier. Do some cost comparisons; is there a price difference between purchasing a schoolbook or a game console in the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom?
Take the exchange rate into consideration, eBay is a great way to do this as many other countries sell items there. Where can you get the best deal? Don’t forget about any taxes, and or duty you may be charged when it arrives. Track the exchange rate for a few days or a month, and see what a difference it makes to the final price.
Again, we are a large family, and my kids have learned the value of second-hand. A fun challenge is to give each person a set dollar amount ($10-$20) and see who can put together the most complete outfit with their budget.
Having your children understand the mark up, and the difference between retail and the used market, and how much farther their money can go letting someone else eat the original retail expense is another practical way to encourage wise use of money and using our math by figuring out the percentage they have saved off retail! This can apply to clothing, books, toys, sporting goods, cars, tools, and many other items that are useful to a family.
Tracking your utility costs, how much does it cost to wash a load of laundry? Boil a pot of water? How much will that use multiply up to over a week, month, or year? Bring in other household appliances as well and learn which are using the most power and cost the most to run. Can anything be done to lower costs, are we staying on budget for the month’s usage?
Let you kids help with the monthly budget. If you don’t want to involve them in the whole process, then stick with just one area, like groceries or costing out supplies for a project the family wants done. The ideas and options here are endless; you can teach valuable life lessons and get your kids out of thinking math can only happen in a workbook.
BONUS: Using Algebra
In the upper math levels you can be talking about algebra without ever mentioning math.
Algebra is simply overlaying sets of equations onto the world around us. We can talk about when it makes sense to invest in a new appliance and how cost–per-use works out to make it more effective to spend more money up front or to spend less over time in some situations.
Comparing gas mileage between two cars we have a 2008 suburban with 200,000 miles and a newer 2016 Nissan NV3500 12 passenger van. The suburban is paid for but often needs to be repaired, but we pay a payment on the Nissan.
Geometry and it’s science counterpart, physics, are even more natural. Have you packed a car full of camping equipment, a a cooler full of food, or added on to your house? Then you are using geometry!
As you can see, it isn’t hard to take math off the page and encounter it in real and meaningful ways every day! I hope this gives you some great ideas and fun ways to SEE math all around you.
Remember that experiencing math in real ways can take the stress out of math, and put a fun spin on a subject that while it isn’t everyone’s favorite we all have to use anyway!