Everyone remembers math time in school. We had it every day. We had to repeat our tables endlessly to learn them by rote. Mom or dad would drill us at home so we could ace the quizzes. Some kids catch on really fast and math becomes a life-long forte. Others struggle and need a bit of help. It sometimes gets easier when the teacher relates math to everyday life.

Do you remember those lengthy word problems we had to solve in elementary school? Some were so hard we groaned in fear. We preferred our math tables since they were easier. Here is an example: Mrs. Smith has 17 cupcakes. She wants to share them equally among her three children so that no one gets more than anyone else. If she gives each child as many cupcakes as possible, how many cupcakes will be left over for Mrs. Smith to eat. It just goes to show how math can enter our everyday lives. We need math to calculate how much fabric we need to make a dress or how much seed to buy to grow grass on a fifteen by twenty-foot lawn. We often use basic math to calculate a tip in a restaurant, to get our average weight for a month, or to calculate how many planes can fit into a hangar that is 300 feet long if each airplane is 40 feet in length.

I could go on and on to illustrate why we need math. Recently my class was given the problem of how to determine what size tankless water heater to buy for a three by three-foot space. It was something that they’ll face in real life, and I got the idea from Twitter. We often give such puzzles to give the class an answer to questions about math such as “why do we need to know division or multiplication?” You never know when you will use your skills. If mom or dad asked you to help select an appliance, you will be able to pop up with the best for the given space. Now won’t they be proud. You can tell them if there will be any room to store a mop or broom next to the new unit. It is a bit simpler with a tankless unit since they are known to be smaller than conventional heaters and they come in multiple sizes. No doubt the more you spend, the larger the capacity and dimensions. Not every home needs the giant ten-shower model. Help select what is needed by estimating the number of showers taken in the morning by family members and how many gallons of hot water per individual shower.

I love these kinds of math problems as they teach kids about practical thinking along with improving their skills. They will encounter them on evaluation tests through schools and ultimately the SAT for college qualification. Math is half your score. In any case, I like to show how math permeates our lives and helps us improve our decision making.