It’s not uncommon to hear a high school student, frustrated with an equation, boldly ask her math teacher, “When am I going to need this in real life?” For some, numbers come easy—and many numerically inclined people go on to major in math and sciences. The truth is, from entry-level manual laborers to Ph.D.-level research scientists, people of all educational backgrounds are employed in careers requiring basic and, often, advanced math skills.
Carpenters, brick layers, electricians, plumbers and other building trades professionals must have a knowledge of mathematics to do their jobs properly and efficiently. Cutting or fabricating materials to the proper size is crucial in these fields -- otherwise, resources and time are wasted. Before a job is secured, math skills, such as geometry and algebra, are needed to properly estimate what the job will cost the client; this involves considering the price of materials from vendors and the cost of labor.
When you think of rolling plains full of dairy cows or fields filled with rows of corn, the first thing to come to mind is probably not math. But, many areas of mathematics are important to the career farmer. For example, farmers need to know how to figure out the square footage of fields to figure out how many seeds per acre they need to plant. Farmers use math to figure out what crops to plant, when to sell them and for how much — often based on interest rates and current selling prices.
A career in architecture is more than drawing up plans for new buildings. For those buildings to be sound, solid and safe structures, an understanding of math is required. Architects use math to properly express the design of the building — a blueprint — so that the construction team can build the structure to plan. Further, mathematical equations are necessary to calculate engineering solutions that will ensure the finished building will be stable. According to the We Use Math website, knowledge of college algebra, trigonometry, calculus, probability and linear programming are used in this field.
Demographic and other data are driving forces behind many business decisions. Statisticians work in a variety of capacities to gather, analyze and present data, such as for polling companies, market research firms, government organizations, or within individual companies and nonprofits. Statistics in itself is a mathematical area of study that uses probability theory as a foundation to help predict behavior of a larger population based on a smaller sample.
Since 2000 Donna T. Beerman has contributed to newspapers and magazines. Her expertise includes higher education, marketing and social media, and her presentations and writing have won industry awards. She has an MFA in creative writing, is the integrated marketing manager at a Pennsylvania college and founded "Hippocampus Magazine."