TED Conversations

David Semitekol

This conversation is closed.

Where do you use math in your profession?

One of the most difficult challenges that math teachers face today is motivating their students. This becomes more difficult when faced with the all famous question: "What am I going to use this for?"

Help me with some real world examples of modern day math. Please let me know your profession and what type of math you use to share with our students.


Thank you everyone so much for the contributions! They are great and I wasn't expecting such a turn out. My goal is to gain enough examples and to use them at the start of each lecture. I'm hoping that these examples in the beginning of class will spark the student's interest for the reaming of the lecture and to show that that we really do use math.

There is a difference between having to learn something and wanting to learn something. When we have to learn it we just try to get through it. When we want to learn it, this is when we make breakthroughs. Stimulate the interest in students so that they want to learn math and we increase our probability in someone discovering the next breakthrough.


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Feb 16 2012: I am a Biologist and I was really lucky and got my first research job after second year of University before I had taken any statistics courses. Because I had learned how to conduct good experiments, I knew that I needed controls:

    I was looking at chemicals that made lavender plant roots grow so I knew that for every chemical I added I had to add the same amount of each one and that I had to repeat another plant grown without any chemical in case the conditions (light, nutrients, temperature...) affected how the roots grew instead of the chemical.

    So I got all of my data and one of the chemicals made the roots grow more on all of the plants it was tested on, but how could I know that they grew different ENOUGH from the control that this chemical might be worthwhile to use? After all, even plants treated the same way sometimes grew a lot and sometimes only grew a little. Maybe the plants had a lot of variation in root length and this trend was just a fluke? Or a result of growing the plants in a lab instead of outside?

    I needed statistics! Statistics take into account the natural amount of variation in samples and tell you if a trend is "significant" or not. I had to try to teach myself all of the formulas I needed for my research so by the time I DID take statistics the next year, I was VERY grateful for the class :)

    Statistics is what lets me know that the results of my experiments are actually MEANINGFUL, and because there are consistent amounts of variation allowed (5% usually). Scientists from around the world use the same guidelines and can therefore trust each others results.

    Math allows scientists to be objective and to share data that is meaningful according to agreed upon standards. Without it we would see "what we want to see" and would have trouble communicating with one another.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.