Knowledge Hub » GCSEs » GCSE Maths » GCSE Maths in Everyday Life: Practical Applications You Never Knew

# GCSE Maths in Everyday Life: Practical Applications You Never Knew

In this post

### Introduction

Maths is one of the toughest subjects to learn, but it is also one of the most important. According to a survey conducted by YouGov, 96% of Brits consider maths important, and 83% “very” important. The UK Government also sees maths as essential. They want to see all students study some form of maths until 18 (Department for Education).

We all use maths in some aspect of our daily lives, from basic maths, such as addition, subtraction, division and multiplication, to more complex concepts, e.g. fractions, percentages, statistics, algebra and geometry. We use it when shopping, cooking, managing finances, travelling and doing DIY projects.

Students, past and present, may think about what use is maths and what they will use that particular sum or information for. While individuals may not use every single GCSE maths topic they learn at school, there is a chance they may use it in their future careers. It will also help them to develop transferable skills, such as logical and critical thinking and problem-solving.

Maths, along with science and English, is a core subject at GCSE level, as it lays the foundation for studying at higher education and crosses over into many other subjects, such as biology, physics, chemistry and geography. It can also boost career opportunities, as it is a subject that many companies will look for in new recruits, especially in engineering, science, technology and finance.

This blog post will explore practical and often overlooked applications of GCSE-level maths in daily situations and look at examples of how we use maths in everyday life.

### Managing Finances

We all have to manage our personal finances in various aspects of our lives, whether budgeting, applying for mortgages, paying household bills, working out taxes, banking, saving, investing, etc. As most of these tasks involve numeracy, it will make it difficult for those who do not possess basic maths skills to understand what they need to do and work things out.

A lack of confidence in numbers can make it hard to understand financial information, plan for the future and control savings and spending. It can also result in making poor financial decisions, which could mean losing money or getting into future debt. Maths can help boost confidence and build skills to manage finances more effectively.

Basic maths skills and the confidence to use them are known as numeracy (National Numeracy) and are vital for budgeting, saving, and managing personal finances. These activities may require calculations and estimates, and GCSE Maths concepts can help individuals make informed financial decisions, for example:

• Calculations – are used to track savings and determine how much to save monthly. They are also helpful to keep on top of spending and avoid going into overdrafts and getting into debt. It can include working things out using addition, subtraction, division and multiplication.
• Probabilities – certain investments and savings accounts involve an element of risk. Probabilities can help individuals assess the risks when making financial decisions and decide where their money should be saved or invested. A lack of understanding could mean losing money in investments or choosing poor savings accounts.
• Percentages – when people take out loans or do not pay off their credit cards, they will usually be subjected to a specific percentage charge known as interest. Understanding percentages can help individuals determine the total cost of the loan and whether they can afford to pay it back in the future.
• Fractions – some retailers may use fractions when selling discounted items, e.g. ½, ¼ or a third off the original price. Understanding fractions can help individuals calculate the cost of the item after the discount is applied to see if they can afford it.

### Cooking and Recipes

Do you know your kilograms from your grams and your litres from your millilitres? If not, you may find it difficult to follow recipes and have more kitchen mishaps. Maths has an essential role in food preparation and cooking, for example:

It helps to measure ingredients accurately to ensure the finished product is like the recipe. Whether measuring liquids, powders or solids, you will need knowledge of units of measurement and conversions, such as:

#### Metric

• Kilograms (Kg)
• Grams (g).
• Milligrams (mg).
• Litres (l).
• Millilitres (ml).

#### Imperial

• Pounds (lb).
• Ounces (oz).
• Gallons (gal).
• Pints (p or pt).
• Fluid ounces (fl oz).
• Cooking times may need adjusting for weights, e.g. a turkey requires a specific cooking time per kilogram, which requires calculations to ensure proper cooking.
• Some instructions on food packaging or recipes give cooking temperatures in Fahrenheit, and there may be a need to convert to Celsius or vice versa, which requires a formula.
• Some recipes, especially older ones, have imperial measuring units, which may need converting to metric, e.g. pounds to kilograms, ounces to grams or pints to litres, which also requires a formula and calculation.
• Ingredient quantities may need to be changed from the recipe to account for the number of people or portion size, e.g. scaling recipes. For example, a recipe may state that it serves six people, but if a person wants to cook for three people, they would need to half the ingredients, which involves fractions and division.
• Some recipes require knowledge of ratios, especially those in baking, e.g. so many parts flour, fat, liquid and egg.

Here are some tips on using maths to create delicious meals and avoid kitchen mishaps:

• Always follow the instructions in the recipe carefully.
• Use the right ingredients and the correct amounts, especially when scaling recipes.
• Use the correct formulae, conversion charts or online tools/apps for conversions and calculations.
• Know how many grams in a kilogram and millilitres in a litre, e.g. 1,000 grams in 1 kilogram.
• Understand your imperial units from your metric, as some recipes will have one or the other and need converting for various types of measuring equipment. For example, 1 gram (g) = 0.0352739619 ounces (oz).
• Do not confuse Celsius with Fahrenheit and vice versa, as it could result in undercooking or overcooking your food.

Do not be afraid to brush up on your maths skills. While it is unlikely to turn you into Gordon Ramsey, it will definitely help you when preparing food and cooking and baking.

### Home Improvement and DIY Projects

Everyone will have a dabble at DIY and home improvements at some point, whether it is putting up wallpaper, painting walls, installing new flooring or carpets or erecting shelves. One thing that all of these projects have in common is maths, especially calculations, measurements, geometry and trigonometry.

#### Calculations

All DIY and home improvement projects will require some calculations, e.g. addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication, e.g.:

• Knowing how much paint to buy for the number of walls and size of the area will require calculations. Dulux has further information on calculating how much paint is needed here.
• Hanging pictures onto walls will require figuring out how much to drill into the wall with the drill bit size they have and whether the fixings will hold the picture’s weight.
• Calculating the number of fence panels and posts needed for the garden width and length.

#### Measurements

Getting the wrong measurements can be disastrous for DIY projects and costly in terms of materials, e.g. cutting a wooden skirting board too short so it does not fit. To be a DIY whiz, individuals must understand measuring units, which are also imperial and metric, like measuring food ingredients, for example:

#### Metric

• Millimetres (mm).
• Centimetres (cm).
• Metres (m).
• Kilometres (km).
• Litres (l).
• Millilitres (ml).

#### Imperial

• Inches (in).
• Feet (ft).
• Yards (yd).
• Gallons (gal).
• Pints (p or pt).
• Fluid ounces (fl oz).

A tape measure, ruler, set square, protractor, spirit level, gauge, etc, are used for measuring. Some projects may also require liquids to be measured in a jug or bucket, e.g. if mixing plaster and cement. Here are some examples of measurements that may be needed when doing DIY:

• Measuring whether furniture will fit through the door and in the designated area. It will usually require taking length, height, depth and width measurements.
• Measuring for new flooring by finding out the area of the room by taking the width and length and multiplying them to find out how much flooring in metres squared (m2) is needed, e.g. 4m x 3m = 12m2.
• Measuring ingredients to make concrete, such as water, aggregates and sand, and using ratios to get the right consistency, i.e. so many parts to water.
• Measuring the distance between shelving brackets to ensure they are level.

#### Geometry and trigonometry

The concepts in geometry and trigonometry, such as right angles, shapes, patterns, lines, distances, space, relative position, etc., are important in DIY and home improvements, especially if you do not want to end up with wonky shelves, poorly fitted flooring, doors, windows or skirting and odd looking rooms.

Geometry and trigonometry are essential when designing rooms. They are also important when deciding on the decor and accessories within the home. For example, few would erect a mirror or a picture on the edge of a wall; they would usually choose the centre.

#### How can GCSE maths skills save time and money in DIY endeavours?

Using the skills gained from GCSE maths can be a money and time saver when it comes to DIY and home improvements for the following reasons:

• Understanding and using maths concepts can boost confidence and make for better DIY-ers, thus reducing the need to use tradespeople for home improvements, saving money and time.
• It saves money from wasted materials, i.e. cutting a piece of timber short or buying too many materials, and reduces costly mistakes, which can cause damage and may delay projects.
• Knowing about maths can make it quicker to take measurements and calculations, which can save time.
• It can prevent things from going wrong in the future, e.g. if shelves have not been measured or put up correctly, they could fall, resulting in broken items and even harm to people in the home.

### Travel Planning

Surely you do not need maths when planning a trip or travelling overseas? Oh yes, you do. In fact, you will need to use maths before, during and even after, for example:

• Budgets –  we would all like to spend lots on trips and holidays, but many of us do not have that luxury and will need to budget to ensure we can afford it.

It will require calculation of costs, such as:

• The holiday/trip.
• Various items, e.g. clothing, toiletries, swimwear, etc.
• Changing currency (if applicable).
• Travel, e.g. airfares, fuel for cars if driving, train and bus fares, etc.
• Spending money for food and drink (if not included), activities, entertainment, souvenirs, etc.
• Any other charges, e.g. mobile phone and credit card.
• Distances – depending on the travel plans, it may require calculating distances, e.g. identifying the number of miles to and from the destination (or kilometres if driving overseas), which can also help estimate the fuel needed and the costs. A formula can calculate distance, e.g. speed multiplied by time. BBC Bitesize has further information on this and examples here.
• Route planning – travel plans may involve working out the shortest route by distance or how to get to a destination more quickly, which is where speed, distance and time come in again. It may also include calculating the cheapest way of getting there.
• Time zones – you can use maths to understand time zones and calculate what time it will be at the destination and the differences between there and home.

Most think that algebra is one area of maths they will never use, but this is not the case. This maths concept and geometry are relevant in navigation and transportation, especially when using a map and compass and understanding GPS coordinates, lines, scales and distance markers. Algebra is also used in logistics to identify relationships between variables, and they use algorithms to improve efficiency. It is also important in the airline industry (The Guardian).

Finding an exact location on a map requires using coordinates, e.g. longitude (X-axis) and latitude (Y-axis) or grid references. It also requires knowledge of calculating distance and direction and identifying objects, shapes and features relative to your position. Honing in on these skills will prevent getting lost on those walks and rambles.

### Shopping and Discounts

A sale is on in a shop, and a sign saying there is 25% or a 1/3 off everything, but would you know how much the item will be once you get to the till? Would you also know if a two-for-one deal is better than three for £1? Math skills can help calculate discounts, compare prices, and make informed purchasing decisions.

Percentages are important in shopping scenarios, as many retailers may offer goods at a reduced price, e.g. 10% or 25% off the original price, but may not label them with the discount. It requires working it out mentally by combining percentages or using equivalent fractions to determine the final price after the discount (BBC Bitesize).

Ratios are also essential when shopping, as they can help compare the prices of various goods to see which is cheaper. For example:

A consumer wants to buy a tin of baked beans, which are £1.00 each for a 410g tin, and the unit price states £2.44/kg.

A 4-pack of the same brand of baked beans costs £3.00, and the unit price states £1.83/kg.

Therefore, it is cheaper to buy the 4-pack instead of purchasing four single tins, as the latter would cost £4.00 and is more expensive per kg. You can multiply the single tins, divide the multipack or look at the price per kg.

In the above case, if a person eats baked beans regularly, they can save £1 each time they purchase a 4-pack.

Good maths skills can help you find the bargains and save you money in the long run.

### Time Management

We use time daily to schedule and manage our time and ensure we are punctual for exams, tests, appointments, work and other commitments. We set our alarms before going to bed to work out how many hours of sleep we need before work; we determine how many hours and minutes the journey will take and the time it will take to cook our food.

Maths influence scheduling, time management, and punctuality, as it involves interpreting numbers to ensure sufficient time is available for specific activities and helping plan our days. You can use maths to:

• Determine the time tasks or activities will take (the duration) and subtract from the time available to see the time left in the day. You can also work out durations by adding, dividing or multiplying time (in hours, minutes or seconds).
• Convert units of time, e.g. 60 seconds in 1 minute, 60 minutes in 1 hour, 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week and so on.
• Make comparisons in durations to see if there is enough time for an activity, e.g. a 120-minute (2 hours) or a 180-minute (3-hour) film.

Here are some tips on using maths to improve time management skills:

• Remember, there are 24 hours in the day and sleep must be factored in, which only leaves around 16 hours (if asleep for 8 hours) for other activities, including eating, showering, work/study/classes, activities, exercise, etc.
• Have a means of telling the time during the day, whether it is a clock, watch, mobile phone, etc.
• Understand the difference between a 12-hour and a 24-hour clock to avoid making mistakes when telling the time. Clocks (analogue) are usually 12 hours, and technology (digital) is usually 24 hours.
• Set goals and monitor the time it takes to achieve them.
• Divide activities into essential and luxury ones on a to-do list to allocate time to the former first and then calculate how much time it leaves for the latter. Prioritise.
• Use planners to help divide the weeks into days and the days into time. There are paper-based versions and also online tools and apps.

### Home Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency can help the environment and the climate and save people money. It can also increase property value, as buyers are more likely to buy more energy-efficient homes, as they cost less to run. So, how do you know how energy efficient your home is or what your energy consumption is? You guessed it, maths!

Energy consumption is calculated using a formula, so it is vital to understand relevant units such as:

• Watt (W) – are the units for power, i.e. energy generation of consumption rate.
• Kilowatt (KW) – 1,000 watts.
• Kilowatt-hour (kWh) – how much energy you are using. However, it is not the number of kilowatts used in an hour but the amount of energy used if a 1000w appliance runs for an hour (OVO Energy).
 Formula Appliance wattage (W) x hours per day the appliance is used (t) = watt-hours (daily consumption). Watt-hours ÷ 1000 = kilowatt-hours (daily consumption). Example 1000W appliance x 3 hours a day = 3000 watt-hours. 3000 watt-hours ÷ 1000 = 3 kilowatt-hours.

Estimating costs requires knowing the current energy price, such as electricity, e.g. 0.28p/kWh. You then multiply this with the kilowatt-hours for the appliance. In the above example, it was 3, so the cost to run the appliance would be 84p a day (3×0.28).

Maths can also help with estimating gas and electric bills. It requires identifying the units used from meter readings, multiplying the number with the cost per unit and dividing by 100 to get the amount in pounds. It also requires adding service charges and VAT (%). BBC Bitesize has an example here.

Energy bills are currently covered widely in the media due to rising charges. Therefore, it is more important than ever to make energy savings and reduce utility bills where possible, and mathematical analysis can help, for example:

• Compare tariffs between energy and utility suppliers and find a cheaper deal to switch to (if available).
• Install meters, e.g. smart or water, to get accurate usage, which can help make more accurate calculations.
• Identify how much appliances and devices cost to run and choose those that cost less and have higher energy efficiency ratings. Also, look at the duration of use, i.e. having the heating on less, and compare activities, e.g. having a shower would be cheaper than running a bath.
• Look at the current tariff with the supplier and calculate whether it is worth fixing energy, which requires calculations and comparisons (MoneySavingExpert).
• Use online tools and calculators if you are struggling, as it is a bit of a minefield.

### Health and Wellness

Want to monitor your health, track your fitness goals and understand medical information? If so, you will need some maths knowledge, as it goes hand in hand with science. Here are some examples of how to apply maths to this area:

• Calculating calories burned – to find out how many calories you have burned requires using a formula, e.g. Duration (in minutes) x (MET x 3.5 x weight in kg)/200 (verywellfit).
• Lifting weights – some weight lifting workouts and weights are in pounds (lbs) and others in kilograms (kgs), so it requires a conversion from imperial to metric to know how much weight to lift during a workout.
• Daily and weekly steps – tracking how many steps you take each day and week typically requires a monitor or app. However, to know how many miles or kilometres you have walked requires a conversion.
• Calorie counting – there is a recommended number of calories we should consume daily. If a person is watching their weight, they will need to monitor the calories in their food, weigh portions, add their calories during the day and subtract what they burn during exercise (NHS).
• Healthy eating – getting a balanced diet with all of the nutrients you need requires an understanding of the recommended nutrient intake, the different units (e.g. μg (microgram), mg, g, kg, l and ml) and % food energy intake (British Nutrition Foundation), and calculations.
• Medical information – do you know if your blood pressure is normal or your cholesterol levels are too high? Maths help to understand and interpret medical tests and results.

You can use maths to make healthy choices and set fitness targets, but you should understand the units and the information needed for calculations and analysis. It is also essential to work towards the correct target for your sex, age, activity and current health. For example, according to the NHS, women should have around 1,400kcal a day to lose weight and men around 1,900kcal. Knowing this will help monitor progress better.

While there are numerous online tools, calculators and apps to help track and monitor health, fitness and wellbeing, it is advisable to understand the maths applied. Technology is not always reliable, so if you know how to do the calculations, you can continue working towards your goals if it does not work, i.e. if there is poor reception. Understanding the maths can also help you interpret your results and make improvements where necessary.

### Technology and Gadgets

Technology is getting more advanced, and many gadgets are in our homes, workplaces, schools and shops to help make our lives easier and provide more comfort. Did you know that behind every computer, system, appliance, car, train, and aeroplane is maths? It has an essential role in the functioning of everyday technology and gadgets, for example:

• Algorithms are a list of steps given to computers to help them solve problems so they understand how to do things. Social media platforms also use them, which recommend content to users and can be great for businesses and influencers.
• Critical computer applications use linear algebra.
• Maths language is in computer software development and programming.
• Geometry is in designing technology and gadgets.
• Data collection and calculations can help avoid errors, e.g. banking systems.
• Maths is in navigation systems in modes of transport, such as cars, planes and ships.

Understanding mathematical concepts can enhance your interaction with technology and gadgets. Knowing the maths behind how something works can make it easier to use and help to solve any problems if they arise. It also prevents being ripped off if repairs are needed, as some unscrupulous people like to charge more if someone does not appear to understand what they are talking about. It can also help buy the right parts if they need replacing, i.e. what type of light and wattage would you need for an appliance?

As technology and gadgets are getting ‘smarter’ and artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more widely used, understanding maths will help you become more confident in using newer systems, equipment and items.

### Conclusion

Most of us have probably heard someone say, ‘What use is maths?’, ‘I won’t use this in life’ and ‘What use is algebra?’ at some point in their lives. However, it is extremely important, as it is a subject used in everyday life. Even algebra and more complex mathematical concepts are present in technology and gadgets.

Whether you are shopping, cooking, doing some DIY, planning a holiday or setting health and fitness goals, maths will make it easier to do these tasks and can also save you money. It can help you to study or work better, plan better for the future and meet career and life goals.

Hopefully, after reading this blog post, you can now appreciate the relevance of having maths skills. While GCSE maths sets the foundation for learning and using mathematical concepts in everyday life, it should not stop there. Over time, we naturally forget things and get a tad rusty, especially if we are not using a specific topic daily. Do not be afraid to brush up on your maths skills, as it can positively impact your daily routine and overall life.

#### Interested in a Maths GCSE?

We offer the Edexcel IGCSE in Mathematics through our online campus.