How To Use That School Subject in Real Life
“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 probably think are absolutely dreadful, and which I consider the most fun. Part of me gets a little sad when I hear this frustrated question. But to be honest, another little part of me gets happy!
Why is Steph 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, this 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 us until it’s too late!
- You’re frustrated thinking you’re only learning this to pass the standardized tests in June.
- Or WORSE! You’re frustrated during class and homework, thinking it’s busy work meant to kill an entire semester’s worth of time.
- You’re not enjoying learning because it seems pointless.
- On second thought, since it seems pointless, you probably aren’t really learning the material.
Why is Steph happy?
I get to show you a whole new world!
So I’ve decided to write a (hopefully not too long) long-form post on different topics within various subjects and how they apply to your real life.
To jump ahead, click on specific topics here:
First… let’s visit Area.
Subject 1: Area
How on Earth would I ever use area in my day-to-day life?! Because some day, you’re going to have your own place! When you have your killer bachelor or bachelorette pad, you’re going to want to get some cozy furniture. 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, you want to complete a DIY project, go to Home Depot 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.When you have your killer bachelor or bachelorette pad, you're going to want to get some cozy furniture, so you have to make sure it fits before you buy that AMAZING beanbag chair! Click To Tweet
How about we discuss Ratios and Proportions next?
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. 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 kitties.
You all probably hate it, but one of my favorite topics in math is Algebra, and that’s next.
Subject 3: Algebra
Algebra is sort of a catch-all subject, and you’ll use it pretty much constantly through 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 posts 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.
Next is chemistry. Now, if you’ve read my blog post on stressing out about school, you’ve probably figured out 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!
Subject 4: Chemistry
Ok so maybe you won’t use so much chemistry, but I promise you will have to use some! For example… ammonia and bleach are two very popular cleaning products. You can find in nearly every grocery store’s cleaning aisle. However, and this is VERY important: you can only clean an area using one OR the other. This is because, 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 have a friend who is allergic to whey protein so he can only have certain brands of boxed mac and cheese, but not others.
If you grow up to own a pool or jacuzzi (first of all, congratulations!) but second, you’ll be using chemistry on a nearly weekly basis! Not only is chlorine a chemical you’ll have to handle constantly, but you will have to check the pH levels of the water regularly. If the water gets too acidic or basic, you could give yourself and any friends that go into your pool or jacuzzi, some serious skin problems!
The same goes for your fictitious pet fish, Nemo. You’ll have to read and alter the pH levels of his tank to make sure he survives!
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, so we’ll cover it next.
Subject 5: Physics
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, you thought they just eyeballed it? No way!
The same goes with great skateboarders, snowboarders, skiiers, and parkour athletes. You need to be able to calculate your speed, height, and distance to make sure you’ll make that leap without hurting yourself.
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,
- why you get shocked so much more in winter than in summer,
- and why cats seem to always be electrically charged!
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!
Percentages are another topic that often gets overlooked, but you’ll be using them pretty often, so let’s cover that next.
Subject 6: Percentages
Sometimes it feels like our entire lives are run by taxes right? Income tax and sales tax you may have already experienced, but when you’re older you’ll also have to deal with property tax. 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.Calculating tips at a restaurant, income tax, and business growth (or lack thereof) all rely on calculating percentages of a whole, percent decay, and percent growth. Click To Tweet
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!
I did get to take Statistics in high school and college, but didn’t truly appreciate it until a bit later in life! So anyway, let’s check out the day-to-day applications of statistics.
Subject 7: Statistics
Statistics is an amazing subject! Depending on what school you’re at, unfortunately, the administration might have downplayed it in favor of Calculus. Some great uses 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 less chances of needing to pay out. On the other hand, statistics show that older adults are safer drivers, so they have the lowest car insurance rates. Statistically, younger males are more careless drivers so they tend to get higher monthly prices.
And last but not least, let’s cover Biology. Now, biology was my love for quite a long time, and even though I switched my major to psychology, I never stopped loving learning about it. So I’ve saved the best for last (ahem… no I’m not at all biased!)
Subject 8: Biology
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
Hopefully this subject-by-subject assessment has helped you see that your STEM subjects are much more relevant to real life than you thought! If you find yourself struggling with any of these topics, be sure to reach out about possible tutoring lessons here. Are there any other topics you would like me to add to this list? I would love to get some suggestions so I can add them in later! Let me know in the comments below.
With all my support,
Author: Stephanie Ortega
Stephanie is a behavior analyst and tutor with over a decade of experience in helping children. She creates planners and worksheets for the organizer within us all, maintains a blog, and runs two start-ups. She’s also a doodler and puppy and cat mom who enjoys travel and learning new things.