Everyday Math

Mathematics links to and underpins every aspect of modern life. More than any other subject. A lot of things that you may not immediately recognise as being based in math actually are.

Did you know?

Time, as we count it today, started in ancient Babylon and is based on their mathematics. Their system of counting was based on the number 60 in the same way as we base our counting on the number 10. This is why there are 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour. The Babylonians had a system to write symbols to represent the numbers between 1 and 59 which is much like many other system of early civilisations. When they reached 60 they simply started over with the symbol for 1. The only difference, it was in the next column over.  

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Sound far too complicated? It shouldn’t, as this is exactly how we do it today except we start over in the next column at 10. Our numbers 1-9 have their own symbol, our number 10 does not. We start over with a ‘1’ in the next column- the ‘tens’ column and use the zero to indicate nothing in the unit column. The Babylonians didn’t use a zero, they literally left the column blank or placed a punctuation mark there instead. Obscure knowledge on the origins of every-day things is not what everyday math is about. It is about managing your finances, knowing exactly what the APR% on that payday loan means in terms of paying it back and how many bricks and bags of cement do you need to buy in order to build that wall.

False Economy

A term you might have heard is ‘false economy’. This is something, like a deal or special offer, that seems to save you money, but when you look closer (and apply a bit of math) it actually doesn’t. Example: you are in the supermarket and you see an offer for 3 jars of coffee for £5. This is right next to other jars of the same coffee that are £3 each. If you like coffee there is no question right? – 3 for £5 it is. But wait, if we look closer we see that the coffee in the deal is in 150g jars, whereas the coffee not in the deal is in a 400g jar. So the ‘deal’ is (3×150) 450 grams for £5 as opposed to 400 grams for £3. The extra 50 grams in the deal is hardly worth the extra money so this deal is a false economy. Sneaky offers like this are all over the supermarket and everywhere else. It is not to say that everything on offer is bad, but being able to spot the dodgy ones will save you money.

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FutureSchool have hundreds of resources (video clips, interactive lessons, quizzes) that apply math to everyday situations.

Try our 30-day trial, free of charge. That’s 43,200 Babylonian hours of use with no false economy in sight.