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Algebra - examples of real life use?

Michelle T

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Guest Lorna

Algebra is used a great deal in physics. A simple example would be the calculation of speed. You can know speed = distance/time and so if you have any two knowns you can calculate the unknown. This could help in calculating a journey time for example. You know how far it is and your average speed on the dial. You can say s=d/t

so sxt=d

so t=d/s

Algebra can be used to calculate the amount of concrete needed for a building, the weight of grass seed needed for a lawn of a given area, or the number of pizzas needed for a party.

Algebra of a beautiful way of making the complex simple. It solves mysteries.

If you are interested in Chemistry, most of the mysteries of what will happen in a chemical reaction can be predicted using a form of algebra. Suddenly you are a soothsayer!

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Here are some "domestic" uses:


Calculating fabric yardage for curtains.


Calculating the square footage of rooms and walls in order to paint them, order carpeting, or arrange furniture.


Meal planning and grocery shopping. For example, you can use algebra to figure out how much rice you use per month, if you use different amounts for different meals, or if some meals are eaten w/o Dad, etc.


Trip planning, i.e., how much the fuel will cost, etc.



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Real World Algebra is by the same guy who wrote the Challenge Math books, Edward Zaccaro. I haven't seen this particular text, but I've been very impressed with all materials of his I've seen thus far.
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I'm at a loss to explain to DS what most of algebra is used for, other than being a requirement for getting into college. I'm sure there must be some real life applications. What are they?

Michelle T, who is not a big math fan


I'm not a big math fan, either.:p


The real-life uses that people always give as examples are usually for figuring out things like how much fabric to buy, but I learned how to do that in arithmetic back in 6th grade. Those are formulas (algorithms??). I don't solve them for X, KWIM? I haven't figured out how algebra helped me think more logically, either.


I'm just thinkin' you should tell ds to do it because he needs it to get into college, and call it a day:D


Of course, he might learn to really love it, and go on to be a scientist or an engineer or something which requires all that stuff. Who knows?


I will say that I was trying to figure out how big to make a square of fabric to hang on a curtain rod, on the diagonal, you know, so that it would be half on one side of the rod and half on the other. Can you picture that? I tried to figure it out by measuring the width of the window, and cut the fabric too big. So I asked dh, and he said it wasn't geometry, which I thought it might have been, but calculus. What I was doing was actually working with a triangle, not a square, and I needed to know--are you ready?--the square root of the hypotenuse (I know I spelled that wrong, lol). He figured it out for me, as I have not done square roots in over 30 years (neither has he, but he's a math geek).



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