If we’ve not heard these questions being asked, we’ve been the ones asking them.
“What is maths for?” “Why do I need to learn my times tables?” “I just don’t understand how people can enjoy solving equations”
The time has come to put a stop to this. Even if you don’t like maths, nobody can deny its importance in today’s society. Not only is maths essential to scientists, doctors and astronauts, but it also plays a crucial role in our day to day lives.
The science of mathematics applies to the clouds; the radiance of starlight nourishes the rose; no thinker will dare say that the scent of hawthorn is valueless to the constellations... - Victor Hugo
We are formally introduced to the subject in school, where learning is mostly theoretical. However, throughout our lives we begin to appreciate that mathematics is with us from crib to coffin, having significance in everything from visiting the shops to playing sports.
Learning Maths from an Early Age
It’s difficult to know what’s going on in the heads of young babies when they only communicate through facial expressions and noises. Whilst their language acquisition is still in its early days, babies use their sight to take in their surroundings. Little by little, their observations and experiments help infants found an understanding of the world. Thanks to new research on the cognitive development of children, we know a lot more about their learning abilities. When it comes to maths, the capacity of children to make sense of their surroundings is astounding. Studies led by Dr Elizabeth S. Spelke at Harvard University showed that at the age of 6 months, babies are able to:
- Visually estimate quantities
- Recognise a difference between two representations of numbers
- Babies who pay more attention to numbers at a young age are more likely to have less difficulty learning the subject in their school years
In their first two years, toddlers learn maths skills to hone their number sense and estimation skills. Whilst they are learning to walk and talk, toddlers begin to put words to the simple mathematical concepts they have been noticing. Encouraging infants and helping them show interest in numbers is proven to be beneficial. In 1980, paediatrician Hallam Hurt from Philadelphia discovered that children who receive more attention at home have a higher IQ in general. The developmental benefits of introducing children to numbers are exactly why children should be introduced to math concepts such as geometry and arithmetic.
The Importance of Number Discovery for Children
Throughout our academic careers, maths is an essential part of the national curriculum and school syllabus. From nursery school, children are taught through methods which are adapted to their age. However, their age is not a reason to shield them from mathematics. Children learn about the fundamentals of maths through playing games which let them:
- Get to know how numbers work (for example, spotting the hundreds, tens and digits)
- Gain an appreciation for the applications of maths
- Explore how numbers relate to each other
From primary school, the maths syllabus is split into 3 main topics:
- Numbers and calculation
- Scales and measures
Mastery of the notions learnt at primary school means less difficulty with maths at a higher level. Maths lessons encourage children to think logically and develop reasoning skills which will serve them throughout their adult lives. Mental arithmetic is equally as important as it allows children to form links between numbers and understand how they work. According to official figures, 25% of children fail to understand the basics of mathematics by the end of primary school. For this reason, it is critical that teaching is adapted to the age of each student and that they have the academic support they need to develop the right study skills. Maths can seem abstract and overly complex when no link is made with its uses in the real world, and this is where many comprehension problems stem from. But rest assured that as a parent, it’s easy to support your child in their maths education. Keep in mind that concrete examples of real-life applications of maths help your child get to grips with a topic through visualisation, which will also help them remember what they have learnt. By mastering the basics, students prepare themselves to overcome any difficulties in the future, particularly once subjects become more specialised and they begin learning physics, for example.
Why Maths is Important in Finance
Students all over the UK breathe a sigh of relief once they graduate, waving farewell to maths lessons. However, the reality is that no one is ever really finished with maths! Throughout your life, even if you don’t use trigonometry, differential equations or fractions on a daily basis, maths is always there – particularly when it comes to budgeting! Of course, there is software available to help you with this, but even in an Excel spreadsheet, if you don’t know how to create formulae, you won’t get very far! So, in which aspects of adult life does maths feature?
- Everyday budgeting: Knowing how to plan your spending in advance and make decisions about how to spend and save your money
- Long-term financial projects: Such as taking out a loan or buying a property where you have to compare and plan for the future.
- Taxes: Filling out your tax return correctly is incredibly important. Being able to trace your earnings can help you find out what how much tax you should be paying and what you’re entitled to.
- Starting a business: Any entrepreneur must have specific skills such as budgeting and forecasting to be able to adequately manage their business.
- Understanding the Global Economy: Some say money makes the world go around. Scholarships, finance, economic policy, the list goes on. Behind the scenes of the financial workings of our society are people using maths to plan and analyse.
If you find yourself in difficulty when it comes to your maths skills, why not take some refresher lessons with a maths tutor to help you in your day-to-day life?
How can Maths Help You Manage Your Money?
It’s a simple fact that being good at maths can help when it comes to understanding your income and expenditure. Being able to mathematically follow your money can give you peace of mind and know when there is a problem. A good knowledge of maths means that you’ll be able to keep track and minimise the risk of financial issues. Maths can also help people control their gambling addictions! A polytechnic school in Milan has launched a training programme with a view to help addicts understand winning probabilities so they can evaluate the risks they take. Find a Math tutor on Superprof now.
The Relationship Between Maths and Sport
Even sport depends on maths! Whether it’s amateur or elite sport, maths can make all the difference when it comes to improving performance. When maths and new technologies make it possible to develop new performance analysis tools, athletes can focus their training on specific points for improvement. In high-level and elite sport, performance analysis tools allow for hundreds of aspects of data to be analysed un real time, including:
- Heart rate
- Muscle strength
- Position on a pitch
- Level of fatigue
Sports trackers can be found in t-shirts, caps, and even rackets! The performance of athletes is scientifically analysed so they can get personalised training recommendations. This kind of analysis can help athletes to:
- Go a few centimetres further
- Avoid injury
- Optimise the recovery period
- Improve technique
In recent years, mathematicians have also begun to focus on specific problems, looking at techniques scientifically to help athletes achieve optimum performance on a given day.
- What is the ideal trajectory?
- Is coordinating strokes the most efficient way to row?
- Which forces act on an air-born shot put?
Sports scientists are always coming up with things to analyse. Solving problems offers new perspectives for athletes who feel they have hit a plateau or need something to focus on to improve their technique. When mathematics comes into play, people tend to be disinterested. Since new roads for athlete advancement have been established, new records are being set.
- In the 2012 Olympics in London, 32 world records were broken
- At the 2014 Football World Cup, the German team trained with technology which analysed the performance of rival teams – and it must have worked as they became winners!
In the beginning, they were reserved for high-level sport, but now analysis tools are within reach for everyone. Amateur sports enthusiasts now have access to these new technologies which are not just gadgets, but performance tools. And we have maths to thank!
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