Mathematic is one of the science subjects that is feared by students because it is considered hard. Most students (including those at university) tend to avoid subjects or course units that involve many figures. And despite government’s emphasis on sciences, many students have not yet heeded the call because they fear mathematics.
And yet Maths is not just for scientists but all of us. When we shop, decorate our homes or listen to the daily weather report, we are using or benefitting from mathematical principles.
Many people say Maths is boring and unrelated to everyday life. But let us examine how fascinating Maths can be.
A shopping trip
Imagine you are out shopping and you cross a big sale. An item you cherish that used to cost Rwf24,000 has been suddenly reduced by 25%. Isn’t that exciting? Well, that sounds like a bargain but what is the new price? The answer lies in arithmetic.
First, subtract the markdown percentage from 100per cent and you get 75% (100-25=75). Then multiply the original price by the result — in this case 75%. The new price will be Rwf18,000. Now that you know the final price you can decide just how good the sale really is.
What if you did not bring your calculator or phone? Perhaps you can work out the answer in your head. For instance if the item originally cost Rwf3,000 and has been reduced by 15%, you use 10% as a base. To get 10% of a number, you divide it by 10 since it is relatively easy to do in your head. And since you know that 15 is equal to 5 plus 10 and that 5 is exactly half of 10, you can quickly calculate the final price by addition and subtraction. Lets try that;
Since 10% of 3,000 is 300 and 5% of 3,000 will be 150, you simply add them (300+150) to get 450. Therefore, the discount will be 450 bringing the final price to 2,550. Easy, you see?
Incidentally you can use a similar approach to figure out the amount of sales tax on an item or the tip to add to your bill at a restaurant. In this case, you will add the result to the original price instead of subtracting.
Be careful though not to jump to a wrong conclusion when working out figures in your head.
However, there are problems that arithmetics cannot solve alone. Fortunately, many other maths tools are available to dissect such puzzles.
Decorating your home
Let us say that you need to replace the flooring in your apartment but have a small budget within which to operate. What happens? The first thing ofcourse is to figure out how much money you need to buy the materials. But that is not enough. Understanding some basic geometry can help.
Flooring is often sold based on how many square units it will cover. A square foot, for example is one foot long and one foot wide. But before you can determine how much flooring you will need, you first have to figure out how much floor area there is in each room and hallway in your apartment. The floor plans of most buildings are made up of the number of the squares and rectangles so the l×w (length multiply by width) formula would help you determine the area of a rectangle or a square .
To illustrate how this formula is used, let us say that you are putting new flooring in every room save for the kitchen and bathroom. The squares and rectangles in the plan show the size and location of the room. Using the above formula, see if you can calculate how many square units of the flooring you will need. You could calculate the total area of the floor plan and then deduct the area of the kitchen and the bathroom.
Use math everyday
The branches of Maths include algebra and calculus. Over the centuries, math has become a truly universal language shared by everyone regardless of culture religion or gender. In science, industry, business and everyday life, math has the power to solve some of the toughest riddles. Whether you are trying to unravel the mysteries of the universe or balance the family budget being able to use the language of numbers is a key to success.
So if you hated Maths, why not take a fresh look at it now? Students should know that Maths is learned best by doing. Try using some maths every day. Try your hand at Maths puzzles and games. One positive experience might change the way you feel. It’s a wonderful practical science
The writer is a teacher at Essa Nyarugunga