One of the things, I often hear from the youngsters is that they think that Algebra is useless. This is totally incorrect! There are reasons why certain topics or aspects are included in the curriculum.

Not only does Algebra help with critical thinking skills, it can actually be used so effectively in everyday life.

For example:

Emma is a Head Girl at her school. She is organising an event and has a total budget of $173 to buy pens for the event. She needs 40 pens. The stationery store offers two types of pens – Smoothie for $4 each and Glider for $4.50 each. She likes Glider pens and would like to buy as many of those as she can within the budget. How many of each can she buy?

One way is to manually keep working out the best possible combination. It will require a fair bit of thinking, effort and time OR use algebra to solve this in half a minute!

# Let us say Emma can buy x Glider pens. So to have a total of 40, she has to buy (40-x) Smoothie pens.

Total cost of Glider pens = 4.50x

Total cost of Smoothie pens = 4(40-x) = 160 – 4x

4.5x + 160 – 4x = 173

0.5x = 13

x = 26

Emma can buy 26 Glider pens and 14 Smoothie pens!

Let us consider another example:

If my car was low on coolant and I needed to fill up the reservoir with some more. The new pack of coolant takes a 70/30 mixture of anti-freeze and water respectively. This was a problem as in most cases coolant mixtures should be 50% water and 50% anti-freeze. So exactly how much distilled water should I add to the jug to make the resulting mixture 50/50? Here’s where some critical thinking and Algebra comes in handy:

I weighed the water/coolant mixture and found that it weighed 6.5lbs. Now I can set up an algebraic equation to solve for the amount of water in pounds needed to reach a 50/50 mix. The equations are shown below:

**(6.5lbs)(30% water) + (Xlbs)(100% water) = (6.5lbs + Xlbs)(50% Water)**

Reducing the equation:

*(195)+(100X)=(6.5+X)(50)*

*195 + 100X = 325 + 50X*

Rearranging,

*100X – 50X = 325 – 195*

*50X = 130*

*X = 130/50 = 2.6lbs*

Therefore, I needed to add 2.6lbs of distilled water to the 70/30 mixture to convert it to a 50/50 mixture. With a little math I was able to solve the problem – No guessing or trips to the store were needed!

The uses of math for the layperson are essentially endless. I could probably write several more hubs on how math is used in everyday life. Personally I use math on a daily basis to measure, track, and forecast many things. Whether it’s computing the gasoline efficiency of my vehicles (or the efficiency of an electric vehicle for that matter), determining how much food to make for dinner, or calculating the power requirements of a new car stereo system, math is like a second and universal language that helps me make sense of the world.