Teaching Students to Love Math

I was talking to one of the most accomplished winemakers around the other day and he had some interesting stuff to say about not only the wine industry, but the component parts of how people can become winemakers, or even taking part in his wine gift baskets business which he runs on the side (after all, most winemakers have outside projects and living in wine country gives you access to some truly great food).

In any case, one of the big challenges these days is getting kids interested in learning in general and math especially.  I do think though there is a big opportunity to get kids interested in math based on the technology that they love so much.  To make Iphones or Ipads, or to own a private jet you have to do a ton of math right?  Plus, getting them some basic math knowledge at an early age is going to make it easier for them to get jobs that require math, even if it isn’t what they first were looking into, even if it leads to having some better wine being made!

Math and Wine

I don’t think many of us draw the connection between what amounts to our favorite alcohol and math.  It’s there if you take the time to look though.

To start, think about your favorite bottle of wine.  Or more simply, think about any of the 90 point wine clubs which exist only to find those exact bottles.

The real question is how winemakers are able to craft wine which is of that high quality. There is, without a doubt more science involved than you might think.  Most of us believe that a winemaker walks through a vineyard throughout October and tastes grapes.  When the grapes taste just right they are picked and then left alone to ferment and create the wine we drink on a nightly basis.

While that certainly happens in some places-at most wineries these days winemaking is more science than art.  Wineries employ full time chemists (they call them enologists, but they’re nothing more than chemists) who test the sugar levels of grapes before the winemaker becomes involved at all.

I think we all know that math is incredibly important, but did you know how much math really went into that bottle of wine you’re enjoying with dinner?

Maths in property

As a mathematics professor I have always found that shopping is the most arduous task in our society today. House closing rarely takes into account basic mathematical precision that would allow for easier agreements to be reached. It’s difficult to display exactly how frequently this occurs but I’ll do my best by telling you about my latest experience with house rental in the great state of Oklahoma.

When I was last searching for  houses to rent I came across a beautiful property and fell in love right away. It had everything I wanted. A Playroom for the kids, a swimming pool for the wife, and a fire pit for me.  All these thing we first read about in Skymall and, of course, wanted for ourselves. I drew the line at the replica sarcophagus coffee table.

We progress through many stages of meetings, after one month we were adjusting closing costs when my broker informs me,  the current owners were adjusting the price bye \$5000 for furniture in the home. I made the argument a two part response. Firstly, I said I do not want your furniture. Secondly, it is inconceivable that your bed and sofa were worth \$5000. I countered with the offer of individual pricing per item totaling somewhere around \$1500. When they scoffed I had no problem walking away from the deal
Another example is when my brother purchased his very first home. It had to do with bills and receipts of previous tenants’ electricity and gas bills. When my brother moved in, he was billed immediately for a year is negligent payments. It took three weeks of e-mails and threatening letters to reach a resolution that did not cost my brother anything but his time. Very luckily for him. If a mathematics-based system could surplant the often arbitrary system we have today we would be much better off.

Math is Needed for Everything!

Let’s face it. You need math for everything. Everywhere you go you need a little math. Whether it is buying groceries, buying a drink, going out on a date, or filling up on gas, you basically need it for almost everything in life. If you aren’t good at math, it is never too late to learn. You can always get a teacher or take classes that will teach you the basic mathematics you need to get by in life.

Computers are the obvious skill where you’d thing maths is needed but that’s not necessarily the case.  Most computer operating systems and software make things relatively easy to use without maths. For example you can change your IP address and watch UK TV in Spain without needing any real technical knowledge.

You can use math for programming and other skills also. One use for maths can be for becoming a pilot. In order to become a great pilot you need to know how stuff works through mathematics and other aviation knowledge. You need to practice the use of math and flying through a flight simulator. A program that’s great to learn flying on is the Pro Flight Simulator which will teach you about the basics of flying. It might not seem like it, but in order to become a pilot, you need to know a lot about mathematics. Math comes into play when you read instruments and panels on an airplane and also, when some of the controls don’t work.

So, you need math for almost everything that you do. You even need some math when driving a car. The speedometer uses math to calculate how fast you are going and how much time it will be to arrive at your destination. You simply cannot get by in this world without a little bit of math! So, dust of those mathematics skills and put it to some use. You can use a calculator if you want, but get used to using your head as well.

The Importance of Math in Career Prospects

Students the world over have been told again and again by their parents to stick at the math and science subjects in school, as they typically lead to better career prospects and salary than the arts or humanities subjects. Is this a realistic assessment or just another example of misguided common perception when it comes to careers?

Essentially it depends on your perspective on what constitutes a successful career. Robert Kiyosaki, author of the famous wealth creation book Rich Dad Poor Dad, argues that anything more than basic education is unnecessary for wealth and prosperity.   Now that doesn’t mean you can skip college and rush over to play Bodog Roulette and make a fortune.

To give a little background on the book, Kiyosaki compares his two fathers (biological and step-father), one of which has a PhD and esteemed academic career but remains relatively poor, the other who had little education, but built great wealth through his own business. The author champions mindset and personal wealth creation over traditional schooling.

On the other hand, for the majority of students intend to go on into paid employment, having a math and science background certainly does help to keep their options open. For example, medical jobs are widely known to pay more than writing jobs- and earning the ultrasound technician salary requires the same amount of time in college as does copy writing, but medical training usually requires a background in high school math and science.

Many students reason that they hate math and science, and wouldn’t want a job that involved them anyway, but this is wishful thinking. There are many great jobs that do require math and science, which may seem boring and frustrating in the training phase but exciting and well-paying in the actual employment phase. It would be a shame to ditch the subject in high school, just to find out later on that your dream job requires those credits.

Unfortunately high school has a way of making these essential subjects seem distasteful to young people. It would help to think of them thus: rather than the “hard” or “boring” subjects, they are a study of the building blocks and logistics of life and the working universe. Try to see the practical applications of mathematical and scientific principles in the world around you. Try to think from the perspective of someone who hates their boring dead-end job, wishes they could understand the world around them better, and would feel lucky to be supported in spending all day learning about it. Out of high school, you may never again have the opportunity.

Too Much Math Is a Bad Thing for Young Minds

Taking Calculus senior year in high school officially turned me off to math, as it probably does for many high schoolers.  While the practicality and logical application of other math subjects is obvious, Calculus is just too advanced for practical application.  While it’s great for future math majors, its complexity and disconnect with the real world make it off-putting.  In fact it could be argued that forcing teens to take advanced math is partially to blame for our crisis with STEM.

Basic math is critical for survival; that was true long ago and it certainly still holds true today.  Even the most basic activities in the home in some way or another intersect with basic math.  Whether it’s your printer telling you that your ink cartridge has just one-quarter left to go, or your attempt at filling out a bank deposit slip for several checks you received, it’s critical that you understand basic math to carry on.

Perhaps if high school and even college classes were most focused on the practical application of concepts in the real world, or even based more around current events, students would be more likely to comprehend and apply what they are learning.  Generally speaking the education system (at least in the US) is broken, primarily because it’s taking too long to evolve.

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Basic Math Is Surprisingly Important

I never got to the real advanced math classes in school. In fact the last math class I ever took in college would have seen me failing if it weren’t for a good friend who tutored me enough so that I could pass. But I always was good at adding, subtracting, dividing, and understanding the relationships between numbers. In other words, I am very good at simple math or everyday math that really can come in handy.

The truth is that I might have had to file for unemployment sometime in my life if it weren’t for my basic math abilities. The reason for this is that most of the jobs I have had required me to be able to do simple math quickly in my head.

Straight out of college I started playing poker and although not many people realize it, you need math skills to be good at it. While there is a big luck factor, the player who can get his money into the pot with a mathematical advantage the most will stand the best chance of winning over the long run. Good poker players are often good at math and they might not even know they are using it.

One of the first “real” jobs I ever had was a being a bank teller. You don’t need to know algebra or anything like that but you do need to know how to count and give change. You can deal with a lot of money over the course of a day and balancing at night was real scary at first. If you don’t balance then you won’t last long as a teller, that is for sure.

My next job was one where I went to different companies and looked through their books hoping to recover money for them. Again, you need to be real good at simple math for this because you need to be able to quickly identify instances where they might have overpaid or not taken enough discount. You have to be quick on your feet with addition and multiplication and you need to be able to easily identify numbers on a page that might be out of whack and don’t look right.

So, there you have it. My first three jobs in life all had a math component and I am glad I was able to learn the basics in school. Kids always wonder and ask why they need to be learning math because they think they will never need it later in life. The truth is though, that you never really know when something you learn in high school or college will be useful to you down the road.

Real World Math Application

In my high school and college careers there was many times in which I questioned the value of math in my life. Truth be told I did not realize all the real world applications that I would use Math for. In this article we are going to talk about some great real world examples that help students understand the importance of learning about math. Whether you are trying to calculate a mortgage when buying St George Real Estate or a car math can make this possible.

The first way that math applies to the real world will be in your job. Many of today’s occupations rely on some sort of math to prove value. For example within the marketing field you will need to show value for the work you have completed. Therefore you will need to use math to demonstrate this value or you might be out of a job. This proving of value is also important because as you show what money you have made for your company you become more important. Being more important within the work place when ensure you make more money.

If you struggle with maths the internet is here to help you.  There are literally thousands of online, real classes you can take to improve your maths.  All of them from established colleges, teachers and educators.  If you have the facility to watch UK TV online then try this link – http://bbciplayerabroad.co.uk/uk-tv-channels-abroad/. The BBC has a great little series called Bitesize which covers basic numeracy and literacy for adults.

The next way in which math is very important within the real world is personal finance. When you are living you will have expenses. You need to make sure your expenses do not out pace what you are earning. This simple example demonstrates the value of simple math and budgeting. With math you will be able to find your way in the real world and earn more money.