“But when am I going to use this subject in real life?!”
It’s wild and a bit disappointing how often I get this one frustrated, groaning complaint from all my students! And unfortunately, it’s usually referring to the STEM classes. You know… Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Yes, the ones you have probably refused to help your child with all these years. I bet you’ve avoided helping them with these subjects either because you agree with your kiddo and think they’re absolutely dreadful, or because you find them impossible!
Either way, if you’re homeschooling due to COVID19 and are choosing to teach your child yourself instead of hiring an educator, chances are you’ll be needing some help to make these subjects interesting and also to craft some real-life word problems.
And if your child is anything like my almost 700 students, you’ll also hear “But when am I going to use this subject in real life?!” quite a few times in your own classroom.
So today’s episode is on different school topics across various subjects and their real-world applications. Basically, how to make the STEM subjects interesting.
Part of me gets a little sad when I hear the question “But when am I going to use this subject in real life?!” But to be honest, another little part of me gets happy!
Why am I sad?
- Teachers aren’t covering real-world applications of these important topics.
- Throughout all of time, word problems have been hated by students. However, since they are the best way to learn real-world applications, the fact that students don’t know the real-world application suggests to me that teachers have caved in and stopped assigning them. They shouldn’t cave in to student demands! Unfortunately, students don’t know what’s good for them until it’s too late!
- Your child is frustrated thinking they’re only learning this stuff to pass the standardized tests in June.
- Or WORSE! They’re frustrated during class and homework, thinking it’s busy work meant to kill an entire semester’s worth of time.
- They’re not enjoying learning because it seems pointless.
- On second thought, since it seems pointless, they probably aren’t really learning the material.
Why am I happy?
I get to show you a whole new world!
So today’s episode is on different school topics across various subjects and their real-world applications.
How to Make the STEM Subjects Interesting Subject 1: Area
How on Earth would I ever use area in my day-to-day life?! Just tell them that someday, they’re going to have their own place! And when they have a killer bachelor or bachelorette pad, they’re going to want to get some cozy furniture. But you have to make sure it fits before you buy that AMAZING beanbag chair! I can’t even begin to tell you how many people I know have bought furniture and then immediately placed an add to sell it on CraigsList because it didn’t fit in their kitchen/bedroom/apartment/doorway!
Or, maybe you want to complete a crafting or DIY project, you go to the store for the materials, and get home only to realize you’re short on wood. Sure, you can eyeball something at the store and cross your fingers, but it’s SO much easier to just take some simple measurements before leaving the house to go to IKEA.
How to Make the STEM Subjects Interesting Subject 2: Ratios and Proportions
This is a big one. Ratios and proportions get a bad rap, but cross multiplying is one of my favorite ways to solve most simple algebraic problems in life!
First, ratios and proportions come in handy when you’re cooking. Trust me, I added too much water to the stew I made when my parents came to visit when I first moved out. It was the saddest bowl of hot water ever served at a dinner table!
Second, some medications are prescribed based on weight. Needless to say, you don’t want to take an excessive amount of medication and potentially end up sick. However, you also don’t want to underdo it, since it might not have an effect.
Finally, ratios also come in handy when making sure your pets have a safe and happy home environment. Most pet foods provide serving sizes based on the pet’s weight, meaning that you’ll have to write out a proportion to make sure you aren’t overfeeding-or starving- your pups and kittens. Now whether or not this is a great approach to how to make the STEM subjects interesting, it will certainly be important to them to take care of their furry best friend.
How to Make the STEM Subjects Interesting Subject 3: Algebra
Now, you AND your child BOTH probably hate it, but one of my favorite topics in math is Algebra.
Algebra is sort of a catch-all subject, and you’ll use it pretty much constantly throughout life. Even if you’re not explicitly writing out algebraic equations and solving for X, you’d be surprised how often you’ll need it.
I use algebra to:
- Set up my budget
- Resize images without them looking squashed and flat or skinny and tall.
- Analyze the engagement I get on my membership content and podcast episodes to figure out what my readers want to know more of.
- Assess whether my students are improving their scores and speed, worsening, or staying the same.
How to Make the STEM Subjects Interesting Subject 4: Chemistry
Now, if you’ve read my blog post on stressing out about school, you probably already know that chemistry and I don’t have a great relationship. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come in handy every once in a while!
So maybe your child won’t use so much chemistry, but I promise you they will have to use some! And sure, the easiest approach for how to make the STEM subjects interesting would be to teach them big and fancy explosions! But chemistry’s most important application to daily life is in safety. For example… I know you probably know this, but I bet your kiddo doesn’t: ammonia and bleach are two very popular cleaning products. You can find both of them in nearly every grocery store’s cleaning aisle.
However, I would probably win the bet if I guessed that your child doesn’t know that you can only clean an area using one OR the other. They probably don’t know that when these two chemicals mix, they react to form a new compound; chlorine gas. Chlorine gas is very poisonous and can kill you if you breathe in too much of it.
Chemistry is vital to every aspect of our diet, whether or not we think of it that way. For example, knowing the ingredients in your food will help you understand why you’re allergic to certain brands of foods but not others. For example, I knew a person who was allergic to whey protein so he could only have some brands of boxed mac and cheese, but not others.
And if your son or daughter is the type that dreams of growing up to own a pool or jacuzzi they’ll be using chemistry on a nearly weekly basis! Not only is chlorine a chemical they’ll have to handle constantly, but they will also have to check the pH levels of the water regularly. If the water gets too acidic or basic, they could give themselves and any friends that get in some serious skin problems!
How to Make the STEM Subjects Interesting Subject 5: Physics
Now, I actually didn’t get the chance to take Physics in high school due to my International Baccalaureate curriculum, but it’s a really cool subject to learn and students love it when it’s taught the right way, so that’s why physics has made its way onto this list.
After all, truly good golfers and billiards players are able to calculate the angles and pressure with which they will need to hit the balls to ensure they get the results they want. What, does your kiddo think they just eyeball it? No way! Tell them it’s all about the math and physics of the hit, and they’ll be excited to learn more.
The same goes for great skateboarders, snowboarders, skiers, and parkour athletes. They need to be able to calculate speed, height, and distance to make sure they can take that leap without getting hurt.
A general understanding of physics also helps you understand why you need to:
- touch metal before pumping gas into your car in order to do it safely,
- and why you get shocked so much more in winter than in summer.
If your child is interested in space, the easiest way to approach the issue of how to make the STEM subjects interesting is to watch SpaceX’s next shuttle launch and calculate the force it takes to escape Earth’s gravitational pull!
And let’s not forget: it’s physics (specifically inertia, friction, and forces) that keeps us safe and exhilarated when we’re riding practically every ride at Disneyland, Six Flags, and Universal Studios!
How to Make the STEM Subjects Interesting Subject 6: Percentages
Percentages are another topic that often gets overlooked, but your child will be using them pretty often, and in case you draw a blank on real-life scenarios, let’s cover that next.
Sometimes it feels like our entire lives are run by taxes right? There’s the income tax and the sales tax, but also the property tax and self-employment taxes if your child is the entrepreneurial type. And taxes are all calculated based on percentages.
Calculating tips at a restaurant, business growth (or lack thereof), and running research experiments also rely on calculating percentages of a whole, percent decay, and percent growth.
And besides, you don’t want to make a fool of yourself and say you want 120% of something without knowing that percentages of a whole can only go up to 100!
How to Make the STEM Subjects Interesting Subject 7: Statistics
Statistics is an amazing subject! Unfortunately, depending on what schools your child has been attending, the administration might have downplayed it in favor of Calculus. However, some great real-world examples of statistics are:
- weather forecasts are delivered based on statistical analyses of hundreds of factors in our world’s environment
- calculating the probabilities of certain events happening (ahem… winning the lottery)
- political campaigns are structured around the statistical probability that certain populations will vote a particular way
- statistics are used to calculate your life, health, and car insurance. The healthier and younger you are, the lower your health and life insurance rates are, since the companies predict they will have fewer chances of needing to issue a payout. On the other hand, statistics show that older adults are safer drivers, so they have the lowest car insurance rates. Statistically speaking, younger males are more careless drivers so they tend to get higher monthly prices.
How to Make the STEM Subjects Interesting Subject 8: Biology
Now, biology was my love for quite a long time, and even though I switched my major to psychology, I never stopped loving it. So I’ve saved the best for last (ahem… no I’m not at all biased!)
Biology is the study of life, everything from bacteria and microbes, to plants, animals, and the human body. As such, there are countless ways to use it in day-to-day life. A general understanding of biology will help you:
- understand how and why Gatorade is a good option when you’re exercising or seriously sick
- learn why severely limiting your caloric intake will inevitably cause you to gain weight
- understand your pet’s evolutionary needs, which will help you get along better with them
- form your own opinion on the never-ending debate of whether to take fever suppressants or ride out the fever.
And let’s be real, if you’re wondering how to make the STEM subjects interesting, learning about the occurrence, impact, and spread of plagues in the history of humanity could yield some very interesting conversations with your child!
So there you have it: examples of real-world applications and ideas for word problems for what is most likely your child’s least favorite school subjects. Hopefully, this episode helps you see that your child’s STEM subjects are not only much more relevant to real-life than you thought but also that it may not be too difficult to make them interesting!
If you find yourself struggling to teach your child this school year or at a loss on how to make the STEM subjects interesting, and are looking to hire a tutor for this upcoming school year, be sure to book your free Academic Success Call so we can discuss your child’s needs surrounding tutoring lessons.