Why Math is a Must for Any Career

Dawn Papandrea | August 1, 2011

Today’s guest post comes from Laura Laing, the author of Math for Grownups, a humorous look at the ways we use math in everyday situations. Her weekly feature, Math at Work Mondays, appears on her blog www.mathforgrownups.com.

If even the thought of math makes your hands sweat, you may have chosen to pursue a career that requires no calculating at all. In that case, have a seat before reading further: as a grownup in any job, you will do math.

But there is some good news. No matter what you’ve been told or thought since you were first learning your multiplication tables, you can do math. And if you’re passionate about your career, you probably won’t even notice it. I promise.

Take a look at these examples:

1. Preschool teacher: Math for preschool teachers is all about teaching kids to count, right? Not so. If you’re serious about your work, you will probably be reading professional publications, which include educational studies. That means that a basic understanding of statistics will come in handy.  And then there’s the day-to-day stuff — like dividing kids into groups (factoring), assessing their academic abilities (percents) and even planning lessons (time management).

2. Wildlife manager: Whether working in a national forest or on a fish hatchery, wildlife managers use calculations regularly. When treating fish for parasites, a fish farmer needs to carefully calculate the amount of chemicals to be added to the water. And forest rangers use math to map out trails and even manage park visitors.

3. Graphic designer: Sure, you may have a great design sense, but artistry will only take you so far. Graphic designers use proportions to be sure that their pages are laid out in pleasing and effective ways. And the golden rectangle — a particularly proportioned shape — is the basis of most conventional layout designs. This pretty little thing is created with the constant 1.6180339887.

4.  Pastry chef: Turns out, much of baking is described with ratios or the comparison of two numbers. The basic ratio for bread is 5 parts flour to 3 parts water (5:3) with pinches of yeast and salt. Then there are all of the other calculations, including conversions, temperature and baking/rising/resting times.

5.  Entrepreneur: Trust me, when you own your own business, basic math will be your best friend. Finding the return on investment (ROI), project fees, percent of profit, payroll figures — all of these will help determine your success or failure. It’s a good idea to feel at least a little comfortable with numbers when your money is on the line.

Tell us how you use math in your everyday life.

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