Opinion

Math in the real world

Mrs. P. has three children. If her youngest daughter has soccer from 5:30-6:45 at Hugh Boyd, her son has sports in the oval from 5:30-6:30, and her eldest daughter has a basketball game at Burnett from 4:00-5:30, what is the best way to do the driving, pick ups, and drop offs in order to minimize time, gas, and anguish?  Using a Richmond map and your knowledge of geometry, plot out the best route.

So much of my life seems to be a math problem these days.  Whoever said that the skills we learned in high school were useless outside of the classroom?  Not true!  When I look at my often complicated life, I thank my mathematics teachers for the skills to balance it all out.  It seems like every two days I have a real life math problem to be solved which makes the above look easy peasey.

Mrs. P. has baked two apple pies.  She has invited her 13 close family members for dinner and needs to divide up the pies into equal pieces. How should she cut them if she also includes a double piece for dad?  How many pounds of salmon should she order for the dinner party if she wants an extra two pounds for a quiche for lunch the next day and everyone eats a half a pound at dinner?

One thing kids are acutely aware of is equality.  With three children and a gaggle of nieces, getting it balanced and “fair” is always an exercise in arithmetic.  This is an area, actually, where children’s accounting (and memory) far exceeds their grade level education. “Why did she get this for her birthday when I’m only getting this?” is a comment I’m ashamed to say I’ve heard at least once. Be it holiday gifts, allowances, or the far reaching memory of “when she was this age, she got this,”  dividing my time and money up more or less equally will always be a challenge.

Mrs. P. has to make rice krispies squares for her kid’s birthday.  The recipe calls for 6 cups of cereal.  She wishes to make a double batch.  If she has one and a half boxes of cereal which are 285 g each, will she have enough for the recipe?

Times tables are essential.  Whoever said they’re not must have a calculator or smart phone superglued to the palm of their hand.  The same goes for long division.  I proudly admit to pulling out a pencil and scrap of paper and going through it whenever I’m faced with one of life’s great divisions like dividing up a bill amongst girlfriends.

Mrs. P’s has $1500 in her bank account this month.  If her eldest needs $80 for basketball and $450 for volleyball registration and her middle child, $45 for volleyball and $690 for a Quebec trip payment, how much will her youngest child have for his activities?  How many months of Oval membership could he afford at $23 a month?

And so it goes on… math making my impossible life a bit easier to navigate.  I consider the calculus course in university that I didn’t so do well in; apparently there are some nifty practical uses for even  calculus.

Could a retake course be in my future?  Possibly, but my calculations estimate that year to be hmmm, 2021 at the earliest.

Andrea Phillpotts is a Richmond writer and teacher. Opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of any school district, organization, or school.

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