Monroe Library Blog

Thursday, June 11, 2009

When will I ever have to use Math?

In my former career as a math teacher, I heard students asking one common question. "When am I gonna actually use this?" Many of us have the mistaken idea that math (at least how we learned it in school) is theoretical and doesn't apply to our everyday lives beyond balancing a checkbook or paying a mortgage.

I just finished reading a fascinating book that might just help us understand more about why math is becoming ever more important. Super Crunchers by Ian Ayres investigates and reveals how technology and specifically statistics is impacting our lives. With the increasing availability of huge amounts of data about all parts of our lives, statistics is showing up in everything we do. Casinos have been using it to figure out how much they can get out of their customers and keep them coming back for more. Online dating sites crunch huge amounts of data to try to match up "compatible" people. Baseball teams have started using statistical measurements to make better business decisions. Even grocery stores can start using data to help tailor their sales and marketing techniques.

This book raises very important issues regarding the changing world that we live in. Where is the boundary line between using personal expertise and relying on statistics? Can statistics really outperform people who have spent their life becoming experts in specific fields? Can all this information actually be harmful? What repercussions are there if we do not become statistically literate? What do we need to know in order to survive in such a data driven society?

The nice part of this book is that the amount of math you need to know to understand it is very minimal. For the most part, it is easily read without complex math knowledge. There are a few times where Ayres brings up some complicated theorems, but if you don't understand those, you will still be able to understand the concepts behind them. I strongly urge you to check out this book for a little more insight into just how important statistics and number crunching will be as we continue to advance technologically.


  1. Ok, Eric. You've convinced me. I like math, so I'm going to try the book. I checked it out today, and I'll let you know what I think when I come back to Monroe.--Amy

  2. Mechelle VanHoudt PSA 1June 18, 2009 at 1:20 PM

    I didn't know you were a former math teacher Eric, I also have a teaching background!

    I think this is a fabulous recommendation, I plan on placing it on hold.