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Casual observation tells us that most people don’t use math beyond simple arithmetic in everyday life. Few people make use of fractions, trigonometry, or multi-digit division algorithms they use in school. More advanced tools like algebra or calculus are even less likely to be brought out to solve everyday problems.
The first argument would allege a failure of education. People don’t use math because they were never taught it thoroughly enough to use it properly.
A lack of automaticity may explain the difficulty people had with the quantitative questions in the survey. Their math wasn’t easily accessible, which led them to make mistakes in the reasoning tasks.
The second argument is a little different. It argues that people may develop competence in math classes, but they struggle to translate real-life problems into a format where they can use their mathematics knowledge.
What people struggle with is not doing math, but recognizing where and how to apply math to real problems.
A third explanation is that math is overrated as a solution strategy for problems outside of exacting, quantitative disciplines. The person measuring cottage cheese managed to get the correct answer without multiplying fractions.
Everyone values knowledge they have mastered and tends to dismiss knowledge they haven’t as irrelevant. There’s probably bias on both sides.
More drill and practice with math. More time spent drilling and practicing math makes it more available for effortless calculations.
More practice with interpreting problem situations. Many students are only taught math as symbol manipulation. Less instruction is focused on identifying situations where it might be useful.
Give real-life challenges that require math. Ultimately, skills and knowledge are sustained by usage. If you don’t have any genuine problems that require skill, you begin to forget them.
"The greatest of follies is to sacrifice health for any other kind of happiness." - Schopenhauer
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