Basic math is a part of everyday life, but the basics can seem not-so-basic sometimes. Maybe it’s the summer and your math class is the furthest thing from your mind, or maybe you have a major in the liberal arts and haven’t taken a math class in years. Maybe math has never been your forte, and that’s okay!
However, when you’re trying to split the bill, figure out how much of a discount you’re getting, or add up time on your internship timesheet and find yourself struggling, it may be time to think about enlisting in some activities that can help refine your math skills (don’t worry, they can be fun!).
Yes, shopping can be educational as well as highly entertaining. When you’re at your favorite clothing store and they offer 25% off the lowest sale price, use your mental math skills to determine the price instead of reaching for your phone calculator. Likewise, when getting a haircut or ordering a pizza, determine the tip based on your inherent knowledge of percentages. All of these small steps can help improve your skills.
2. Taking an online coding class
Coding is a great skill to have these days, making it a fun and really useful hobby. Although it may not be obvious, coding is naturally linked with mathematics. The principles learned in coding lend nicely to skills in math, such as understanding abstract concepts and problem-solving. While you may not be directly learning math facts or equations, coding helps you practice the skills necessary to be successful at math.
Sometimes, cooking can seem like a crazy science experiment, but there’s also math involved! Maybe you found a recipe you love, but realize it is intended to feed a family of four and you’re only cooking for yourself. Or maybe you find a great recipe that you want to bring to a family party, but the recipe you found is too small. Splitting or doubling a recipe requires understanding of measurement units, as you may have to transfer from unit to unit. It also requires knowledge of fractions: how to add them, how to divide them, etc. Take a stab at changing the quantity of one of these recipes and give your math skills a bit of exercise!
4. Creating a budget
Not only is this a practical thing for a student to do, it also reinforces math, as you are tasked with making numbers fit into a certain set of parameters. As you create and track your budget, basic math skills are essential to help ensure you are successful in managing your money to your liking. You will need to know percentages as you determine what percentage of your income you are going to save or spend. You’ll also need to carefully track your spending as you go through each month, determining what you can afford, what you cannot afford, what expenses or purchases can wait until next month, and so on.
5. Watch sports
You may not have realized it, but percentages can play a huge part in sports—just ask any fantasy football player or anyone who places bets in the Kentucky Derby. Most sports involve numbers games—combined with pristine athletic ability, of course. Watch a baseball game to determine a player’s batting average, look at your favorite football team’s season to determine their win/loss record, or watch the NBA draft to see the variety of math that goes into a draft pick.
If you can’t tell from the array of everyday activities listed here, math is everywhere. One of the best ways to refine your math skills is to think about the way math shapes your life and be conscious of it as you go through your days.
Brittany Phillips is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.