How Have You Linked Maths To The Real World?

Throughout my A Levels I always enjoyed mechanics as it linked the mathematics I learned in school to real world problems. I thought I would do a physics degree due to my love for solving real world mathematical problems, however I decided that I didn’t particularly enjoy experiments, so I ended up doing a maths degree and specialised in applied mathematics instead. 

During my degree, I took numerous applied modules as well as some modules in statistics and physics. These modules gave me a good sense of where mathematics can be applied in the real world, such as astrophysics, climate change and economics. I also worked in the actuarial profession after graduating and started a PhD in astrophysical fluid dynamics. Doing these jobs helped me to articulate why mathematics is useful in the real world when I moved to teaching. 

I applied for teacher training as I wanted to inspire my students to appreciate the real-world applications of mathematics and to inspire my students to study mathematics at a higher level. Throughout my teacher training, I always did my best to mention at least one real-world application of the mathematics being taught in each lesson. 

To link mathematics to the real world, I always think of a context I can put the problem in and whether there is an application that would motivate the students. I often use my physics background to talk about physical applications of the material. For example, when I taught a lesson on standard form, I showed my students examples of physical constants which are written in standard form such as the speed of light and the rest mass of a neutron. 

An area of mathematics where I find there are endless opportunities to link mathematics to the real world is algebra. There are many different subjects which algebra can be linked to such as the mathematics of investments (option pricing theory), electromagnetism (physics), predator-prey models (biology), encryption algorithms (computer science) and many more.  

In one of my lessons, I used my background in astrophysical fluid dynamics and showed my students the magnetohydrodynamic momentum equation, which sparked loads of discussion and curiosity for the topic. I had many questions to answer, such as what the vector cross product is, what do the letters represent and what does the nabla symbol mean. 

Outside of the usual lessons, I have also taught some enrichment lessons to showcase what mathematics is like beyond the curriculum. I recently taught an enrichment lesson on vector fields and polar coordinates and the students loved it when I showed them that we see vector fields every day on the weather forecast and how they can be used to represent magnetic fields and fluid flows. 

It’s very easy to link maths to the real world as there are an endless variety of real-world applications. Linking maths to the real world in lessons is an exciting way to make lessons fun and motivate students. 

By Samuel Hor

You can find Samuel on LinkedIn here.


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