Summer Tip #3: Real Life Math

I hated math as a teenager.

I was always an English girl. I liked books and words. Numbers? Not so much. Who cared about geometry? I preferred Jane Austin. When I grew up I wanted to be a writer. Why would I ever need math?

I was so wrong. While I may not use calculus in my day-to-day life, there are plenty of mathematical concepts that make frequent appearances in “real life.” Here are just a few to watch for this summer!


Have you ever needed to figure out a tip at a restaurant? Establish the sale price of an item? Engage in extreme couponing? Many monetary transactions require a basic understanding of percentages.

If you see that a $68 dress is 35% off, and you’ve got a 15% off coupon, how much will you end up paying?

If your boss tells you that you need to increase your sales by 11%, what does that actually mean?

If you go out to dinner and the final bill is $38, how much do you leave your server?

(Don’t laugh at the apparent simplicity of that last problem — “settling the check” questions are the kind that can destroy friendships, particularly when you’re trying to settle a massive restaurant bill at someone’s birthday dinner. Every group needs that awesome friend who’s confident enough to whip out the calculator and make sure that everyone has paid their fair share.)


If you’re building anything, you need a fundamental understanding of geometry. And you should be building things, because building stuff is cool.

If you’re constructing a ramp that goes six feet out from your front porch, and your front porch is two feet off the ground, how long does the ramp have to be?

You bought your friend an awesome circular ottoman for her birthday. If the diameter of the ottoman is 36 inches and its height is 24 inches, how much wrapping paper will you need to cover the whole thing?


One of the most irritating (and also necessary) aspects of financial independence is budgeting. Once you are on your own in the world, keeping track of your finances is incredibly important — especially if you want to set aside money to travel or save up for a large purchase.

While budgeting is, to a degree, just adding and subtracting, it’s also about planning. It’s about substituting items, looking for good deals, and keeping a very organized list (write out your work!). Grocery shopping, particularly if you’re feeding a family or group of friends, requires you to pay attention to both your budget and the amount of food needed.

Sample problem:

You need to feed yourself healthy, tasty food for the next week. You have a set amount of money with which to do so. You also really want that cool lamp that they have displayed at the front of the store. What do you do?

Math is everywhere. 

The math you will use on the SAT and ACT is all around you. Spend this summer noticing the numbers that intrude on your everyday life, and start to rely on your own ability to problem-solve. Enjoy!

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