If your child has ever struggled with math, you’ve probably heard this question, and if you haven’t, their teachers certainly have. It can be hard for students to connect math’s abstract concepts to their own lives, and it’s even harder to connect those concepts to something as far off as their careers.
So here’s a list to help make that connection, showing how math works its way into jobs you might not expect. After all, math is abstract enough that it applies to every field out there. Even if your child doesn’t know what they want their career to be, you can be sure it will involve math.
Medicine and Natural Sciences
If your child is considering a career in one of the sciences, they’ve probably accepted that they’ll need to know some math, but they might think of that as secondary to mixing acids or living the dramatic personal life of a TV doctor. Math, though, is foundational to every natural science. Physics is near-constant calculations, chemistry involves balancing equations, and even biologists need to count the frogs they’re studying. And every single one of them will use quantitative data analysis to share their findings. Not all scientists need to be math geniuses, but none of them can escape the discipline.
Construction workers need skill and grit to do their jobs. They also need a working knowledge of geometry: they’re building all the shapes they teach you about in high school, and formulas for area and volume give them information they really need. In fact, a 2013 study from Northeastern University found that blue-collar workers do more math than anyone else in the workforce, which makes sense. If a construction crew gets their calculations wrong, the consequences range from a scathing review on Angie’s List to a complete rooftop collapse. Which…would probably be mentioned on Angie’s List too.
That’s not all the math that’s important for construction. Despite its stodgy name and niche applications, workers use the Pythagorean theorem to square walls and frame roofs. Plotting linear equations might not look like a growth industry, but building stairs calls for the same definition of slope you’ll find in algebra class. And, until the United States converts to the metric system, construction workers will need to do those conversions themselves.
Ah yes, fitness. A field where every day seems like a word problem:
Ronnie’s on a diet. He wants to eat 2000 calories a day, 75 grams of protein, 50 grams of carbs, 30 grams of fiber, and no more than 20 grams of fat. He’s eaten so much oatmeal that he’s forgotten what flavor is. He knows that tuna is good for him, but if he eats even one more can, he will literally cry. Write a meal plan for Ronnie, because he’s curled up on the floor and surely can’t do it for himself.
There’s a reason the American Council on Exercise offers courses in math: for fitness professionals, competitive athletes, and even regular folk trying to be healthy, diet and exercise are numbers games. Any optimized fitness plan takes math, whether that’s counting macronutrients, figuring out your pace for a 10k, or calculating percentages of your one-rep max.
Business and Sales
Every business—from Walmart to start-ups—wants the same thing: to make more money than it spends. And so every business needs to do the math. Will this investment net a profit? Will this client contribute to long-term growth? If we expand, will that increase our sales or just our overhead costs?
Companies need answers to these questions, and they value employees who help them get the answers they want. Your child can benefit from mathematical thinking because their employer benefits too.
Ronnie has a date tonight. Congratulations, Ronnie! His checking account has $479. At midnight, $147 will be automatically drafted to pay his health insurance premium, along with $184 for his car insurance and $73 for his data plan. His rent is due in two days. Assuming he plans to buy dinner and tip at least 20%, how should he cancel his date? Because he definitely cannot afford it.
When your child enters the workforce, we don’t really know what work will look like. But we do know this: Math teaches us how to solve problems. It teaches us how to make the abstract real for ourselves and others. It teaches us how to take dizzyingly complex ideas and break them down into manageable pieces. It teaches us to find clarity, whether that clarity is financial, strategic, artistic, or moral.
Math teaches us to make sense of the world for a moment, if just that single moment, and whatever we do, however we live, whomever we become, we’ll use that. We will.
Mathnasium, the nation’s leading math-only learning center franchise, specializes in teaching kids math in a way that makes sense to them. When math makes sense, kids excel—whether they’re far behind or eager to get ahead. The proprietary Mathnasium Method™ is the result of 40+ years of hands-on instruction and research. There are over 700 Mathnasium franchises in the U.S. and abroad. For more information, visit www.mathnasium.com.