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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.
I see three explanations for the failure to use math in everyday life:
1. Most people don’t learn math well enough to use it effortlessly.
2. We learn school math but fail to translate real problems into a format where we can apply our math knowledge.
3. Most higher math isn’t useful for everyday problems.
There seem to be a few options:
1. More drill and practice with math. More time spent drilling and practicing math makes it more available for effortless calculations.
2. More practice with interpreting problem situations. We need to give students more training in noticing and converting everyday situations into the math problems they know how to solve.
3. 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 a skill, you begin to forget it.
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