# Will You Use High School Math in Real Life?

Have you asked yourself during math class “When will I use this in real life?” High level math courses might not get as used as simple addition, but times can arise when math skills can be helpful. It is just that most of the time you don’t realize when you are going to use it until you have to use it. The three classes that seem most helpful, based on a survey I gave to seniors, are Algebra, Geometry, and Statistics.

Phil Davis, an actuary that works for the Department of Defense, asked himself a similar question in high school; “Yeah, you ask yourself those questions to these classes to some extent, when I was learning trig functions I definitely asked myself those questions.”

About 60% of the seniors surveyed said that they think they will use Algebra methods in real life. One of the most common times you would use Algebra is when it has to do with money. This can include grocery shopping, taxes, and tipping. What people don’t realize is that these Algebra skills just pop up without notice, like in real life they won’t be directions of what you are looking for you just do it. A time when you would use Algebra is when you have a set budget for something and need to see how many things you can buy. Let’s say you have a $50 budget and you want to see how many boxes of chewy bars you can get when they cost $2.65 yet you need to buy a box of water which costs $4.65. This seems like a math worksheet but it is an instance of when Algebra skills can be super helpful.

As for Geometry, a good chunk of it might not get used but the central concept of it can. When buying furniture or arranging things are times when Geometry can be useful. You can use it to see how big a desk can fit in the layout of an office or if the T.V. can be seen at a certain angle. You wouldn’t just buy furniture without measuring out the space to see what best shape can be used to optimize the space you have. Same goes when angling a T.V. so that it can be seen well even if the sunlight hits it. Geometry might not be as used as Algebra but there are times when it can be beneficial.

Statistics is the only type of math that you will interact with everyday if you realize it or not. Almost anything is made up of statistics from money to sports. For example you would make a judgment call to bring an umbrella or not based on the statistics if it’s going to rain or not. Other times when you would use statistics is to see how much a car would cost in one state compared to another. These are times when knowing how to read statistics can make you make the best decision for yourself.

From the survey, 11 out of 20 seniors indicated that they would likely or most likely use the math they learned after high school but not only would you use the concept from a math class in real life but also how to critically think about things when an issue arises. Mr. Davis said this about his high school math classes, “they taught me to think more whening solving any problems and even if math wasn’t involved.”

You don’t just get taught how to solve problems that have to do with multiplying, subtracting, or finding the value of a variable, but instead how to think more about a problem and discovering the best way to solve it.

Leinad Regnips • Sep 25, 2022 at 5:51 pm

I am an electrical engineer and have been practicing as a HS math teacher for the last 22 years. I would say that the algebra example given with the $50 budget is not truly an algebra problem. It is an elementary arithmetic math problem: the amount of money that can be used for the purchase of chewy bars is $50 – $4.65 (water). Therefore, the number of boxes that can be purchased is the given difference divided by $2.65 (rounded down).

I would say that if one surveyed 1000 randomly selected college graduates, one would find that at most one may have needed to use algebra (or geometry) in the prior 30 days, with the exception of setting up formulas & relationships in a spreadsheet.

David Melendez( Math-u’s father) • Apr 1, 2022 at 3:16 am

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