Where’s the Maths?

Some people reckon maths is only used in a classroom. I am a strong advocate of educating
people about where maths can be used outside the classroom and in real life; so this latest blog is
dedicating to explaining some of the everyday topics where maths is used!

1. In the supermarket – So this one may be an obvious one, but is definitely one of the most
versatile and important uses of maths (well to me anyway)! Whether you’re buying fruit,
yoghurt or shampoo there is maths there. Whether a pack of fruit is sold per kg or per piece,
we’re using units, which is a key part of maths. Once you’ve decided you’re going to buy 2kg
of carrots; is it cheaper to buy them pre-packed or loose? If they charge £0.86 per kg loose
or £2 for a 2kg pack; which do you choose? If you buy them loose you’d only pay £1.72, but
if you buy them pre-packaged in a 2kg bag, you’d pay an extra 28p. The amount you pay for
an item, how you pay for it, and the change you get (if any) all uses maths!

2. Cooking – a personal favourite of mine! I love baking and grew up making cakes, brownies,
flapjacks, shortbread biscuits and every other sweet thing imaginable! Frequently when I
looked at the recipe it was for the wrong number. It would be for 4 people, when I needed it
for 6 people, or 20 people when I needed it for 10 people. Ratios – which are a key part of
the maths GCSE syllabus – are fundamental in this. By scaling up or down quantities and
using ratios, I knew the right amount I had to use. Take a cake I wanted to bake for 6 people,
when the recipe only served 4. I had to use 3 eggs (rather than 2 eggs) and 175g of self
raising flour rather than 116g. If I hadn’t done the maths correctly, I could have ended up
with a horrible tasting cake – and that would have been disastrous!

3. In an advert – We all see the statistics; whether that be on a TV commercial, radio broadcast
or magazine they are everywhere encouraging us to buy things! 80% of people would
recommend this product, 95% thought it was better than expected, 10% would buy it again…
and on and on the list goes. The thing is, what do these statistics mean? By understanding
maths, you can understand what it means and whether it’s a good thing (or bad thing)!

4. Interest rates – When you’re an adult, chances are you’ll borrow money at some point.
Whether that’s a mortgage to buy a house, a loan to pay for a holiday or a credit card to pay
for the weekly shop, they will all charge you for the privilege of borrowing! Since no-one
gives you money for free they will all charge you interest. Interest is a specific amount
according to how much you borrow, how long you borrow it for, and where you borrow the
money from. Lenders charge anything from 3% up to 2000% – there is a HUGE difference
between there. Lets say you borrow £100 for a year; with the cheapest lender of 3% you
would only pay back £103 – so you pay them £3 for the privilege. That’s not too
unreasonable I reckon. But look at the 2000% – you’ll end up paying £2,100 – i.e. you’ll pay
them a whopping £2,000 just for the privilege of borrowing £100. Now that doesn’t seem
fair. Note here payday loans are the WORST – in my opinion they should banned. Interest is
a topic which is of course featured in the GCSE syllabus in both the higher tier and
foundation tier, so all students need to be comfortable with the meaning and understanding
of it, as well as being able to use it!

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