15 Reasons Why Math Is Important

Math plays an essential role in understanding the universe, supporting careers, encouraging analytical thinking, and much more. This article gives 15 reasons why math matters.

Math goes so much deeper than the multiplication tables and geometry exercises many of us have to do in school. It has origins in the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Maya, where it was used for commerce, tax systems, and examining the natural world. Today, many people have anxiety about their math skills. Research shows that around 20% of the US population has math anxiety. 31% of 15 and 16-year-olds across 34 countries worry about math, too. While anxiety can lead people to avoid math as much as possible, math is important. Why? Here are 15 reasons:

#1. Math is a universal language

Math is often referred to as a “universal language.” What does this mean? It means that while people grow up speaking different languages depending on where they live, math is the language everyone learns. As a ThoughtCo article argues, math meets the definition of a language because it’s a system of communication with its own vocabulary, grammar, and syntax. The principles and foundations of math are the same everywhere, so no matter where you come from, 2+2 will always equal 4. A circle is always a circle. There may be different symbols for numbers and different units of measurement, but when translated, they all mean the same things. Math provides a universal method of communication that transcends other languages.

#2. Math helps us understand the universe

Many believe math is not only a universal language but the language of the universe. Over the centuries, math has helped generations of scientists unravel the universe’s mysteries. Using math, Albert Einstein came up with his theories of relativity, which transformed how we think about space and time. The theories also provided the mathematical framework for studying nuclear energy. There is some debate about how much math truly describes the universe and if it can fully explain everything. A mathematical “theory of everything” remains elusive. The theory of everything, if it ever becomes a reality, will be one coherent equation that explains and links all physical aspects of the universe. Right now, math hasn’t offered a key to full understanding, but it gets us closer.

#3. Every career uses math in some way

Careers like mathematicians, engineers, architects, and others use math all day every day. That’s not surprising, but what may be is the fact that all careers use math in one form or another. The math aspect may be completely unrelated to the essence of your job, but every career involves creating invoices, calculating budgets, calculating profits and losses, figuring out taxes, and more. Accountants and bookkeepers will work with this side of a business the most, but whether you’re self-employed or just want to understand your career a little more, having basic math skills will be very important.

#4. Math encourages analytical thinking

Analytical thinking happens when a person can identify problems, gather important information from the data presented, and work through solutions. This is essential to solving math problems. Because math problems are solved step by step, you need to think through each step carefully and logically. If you want to train the analytical side of your brain, math could help. Strengthening this skill will help you solve increasingly more complex math problems, but does it have benefits elsewhere? Studies don’t provide a definitive answer, but it’s possible that using math to build your analytical thinking skills will help you think more analytically overall.

#5. Math is good for your brain

The evidence for math’s positive effect on the brain is continuing to build up. Challenging brain exercises, like crosswords, puzzles, and math problems, can play a role in protecting a person’s brain cells. In one large online study, researchers learned older adults kept their brains functioning up to 10 years younger than their actual age when they consistently worked on word puzzles. This is supported by other research showing that using your brain helps keep it healthier. A healthy brain is especially important regarding Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia where brain cells gradually shrink and die. Math is also important to young brains. One study found that when 16-year-olds in the UK stopped their math education before their peers, they had lower levels of a brain chemical responsible for learning, memory, and related skills.

#6. Music and math are connected

Music and math may seem like odd companions, but they’re more closely related than you may think. Both rely heavily on patterns. Learning to read music can also feel similar to solving math problems. When it comes to music composition and production, the comparisons to math are especially strong. Musical counting, scales, intervals, symbols, harmonies, and more are essentially forms of math. There’s even some research that suggests learning music can help a child’s math skills and vice versa.

#7. Visual art uses math

Math’s connection to the visual arts is even stronger than to music. There is perhaps no better example than the golden ratio. It’s an irrational constant in algebra used to help analyze the proportions of natural objects. Leonardo da Vinci used the golden ratio in the “Mona Lisa,” one of the world’s most famous paintings. You can find many golden rectangles in the painting, including around her face and eyes. The Vitruvian Man, which features a man in a circle, is also drawn according to the golden ratio. A work of art’s proportions, distance, shapes, patterns, and more all involve math, whether an artist or viewer knows it or not.

#8. Math helps you manage your finances

Math and money are closely linked. Without math skills, it’s hard to create a budget, calculate taxes, or make long-term financial plans. Not using math to calculate how much you make per week and how much you spend on groceries and bills? You can quickly end up spending more than you have. Trying to create a budget for your business and making consistent mathematical errors? Those mistakes can have serious consequences. If you want to manage your finances well, you’ll need basic math skills.

#9. Math plays a role in democracy

In an opinion piece for Education Week, a mathematics professor describes how eroding math skills lead to “misleading statistics, sham metrics, cooked numbers, and erroneous alternative science.” Politicians frequently abuse or misrepresent numbers, which has huge ramifications on democracy. In the United States, gerrymandering, which is the practice of drawing voting districts that favor specific parties, is a key example. In a 2017 Big Think article, a mathematician from Duke University developed an algorithm exposing the impact of gerrymandering. While people don’t need to be math experts, understanding how math can be used to help or harm a political system is important.

#10. Doctors and nurses use math every day

Medicine is a science, and like most scientists, math is part of a doctor’s or nurse’s everyday work. How? To see how well a treatment is working, professionals need to collect and analyze data, which relies on numbers. Math is also used for things as basic as writing a prescription. Every medication has specific guidelines for dosage amounts based on a patient’s weight. To ensure a patient is getting the right dose, doctors need to accurately convert measurements. Doctors and nurses also use math when using IVs, interpreting blood pressure readings, and analyzing patterns.

#11. Math can help treat serious illnesses like cancer

According to the World Health Organization, almost 10 million people died of cancer in 2020. There are more than 200 types of cancer, many of which are easily treated if caught early, so researchers and doctors are constantly trying to improve prevention and treatment standards. Math can help. According to a professor of applied mathematics, math can help determine how long cancer has been in the body, which in turn can help us develop more effective detection methods. Math can also help develop more effective treatments that target specific mutations.

#12. Math is an important part of artificial intelligence

Interest and advances in artificial intelligence have erupted in recent years. AI and machine learning present a variety of fascinating possibilities as well as efficacy and ethical concerns, but what’s clear right now is that discussions about AI aren’t stopping anytime soon. Various types of math are important to AI, such as algebra, calculus, statistics, and probabilities. If you’re interested in learning more about AI or working with it, learning some math will be very useful.

#13. Math is vital to the software and gaming industries

The software and gaming industries are huge and extremely valuable fields. Math is an essential piece. For developers, they need skills in algebra, geometry, calculus, trigonometry, linear algebra, statistics, and more. The more complex the development (such as development with machine learning), the more math skills you’ll need. To create games and write code, you’ll need lots of math skills, as well, especially if you’re working on the side that builds game engines or programming language development.

#14. Math is important in baking and cooking  

When you’re making cookies, you might not realize how much math went into the development of that recipe. The recipe developer has to work with temperature, weigh and/or convert the quantities of ingredients, and figure out cooking time. If an ingredient ratio or cooking time is even just a little bit off, it can result in a very different product. Cooking, though not usually as precise as baking, also uses math. Moving beyond an individual’s kitchen, math also helps explain the many processes that go into safe food production, including storage, testing, and transportation. Whether you’re ordering a meal at a restaurant, buying something packaged at the store, or cooking at home, math was used along the way.

#15. Math is important for safe architecture

Various kinds of math go into architecture, including geometry, algebra, and trigonometry. To become an architect, students need to take classes like calculus, trigonometry, probability, statistics, and more. While they may not use everything they learn in their daily work, these skills are used to analyze spaces, calculate designs, and solve complex problems that might arise. Contractors and construction workers must also use math skills to accurately measure and build what the architect designed. Architecture doesn’t typically use extremely complicated math, but knowing the basics and thinking analytically are important.

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