Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Life as a Mathematician

When you're not at school are you still a mathematician? How do you use math to solve problems in your daily life? How did you use it today?

I used to think I was never a mathematician. Math was a subject in school that required me to study at a time when most other subjects did not. I was convinced I didn’t like math so much so that I had major anxiety attacks pretty much all through trig and calculus in high school. I was a solid B student in math usually, but not a math whiz. I then discovered that I did have some mathematician in me when I made a 4 on the AP Calculus test at the end of my senior year. This boost to my mathematical self esteem really helped. I thought for about one semester that I wanted to teach math and English at the high school level; then I took Calc II and found that I was indeed not much of a math student. Oh, well, Latin beckoned and I changed my major to classics and English and went on my merry (though bereft of most math) way.

Much to my surprise I do use math quite a bit in my daily life. First, I am pretty good at estimating how much gas I have and how many more miles I can go before filling up. When you drive 120 miles a day to work, this is an important skill. I also have gotten the hang of dividing or multiplying recipe ingredients to adjust for a small (just my husband and me) or large (160 Meals on Wheels clients) meal that I am preparing. I have always been good at figuring out how much something costs that is on sale--except when they do the annoying 15% or 35% off, I just can’t do that math in my head! I also use basic addition everyday to count my Weight Watchers points. And when it’s going well, I use basic subtraction to count the pounds I am losing. And as a teacher, I have always used averaging for grades, but only recently have I discovered how cool weighting grades can be inside Blackboard’s gradebook application. And speaking of applications, I also use math in the games I like the best on my iPhone--Maya Pyramid (counting cards, but hey addition is addition), Cut the String (geometry and cause and effect), and Farkle (basically fake Yahtzee, but I like to count). So I use math a fair amount everyday, but it is so embedded in my tasks that I don’t have time to dread it like I used to in high school.

1 comment:

loonyhiker said...

I had the same kind of math experience in high school as you did! I took AP Calculus too and did well (not sure why or how). It was fun learning the ways you use math every day!