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9 Ways You Didn't Realize You Were Using Advanced Math on a Daily Basis

UL Grad School -- 07/19/2018

Earning an advanced math degree can help you make a real difference in our everyday lives. Because math is the basis for all other scientific endeavors—along with its applications in other fields—we see and use it everywhere.

How, you ask? Just look around you!

We owe a lot to advanced mathematics and the mathematicians who handle intense amounts of equations and algorithms. They’re the ones making our lives easier, more fun, and more efficient.

1. Driving

When you’re accelerating, braking, steering, or even using your turn signals, you’re using advanced math. By combining mathematical equations with the principles of physics, we’re able to zoom around town without thinking twice. And when you’re in the car, remember to thank math for the roads—determined safe by civil engineers—and traffic lights, whose timing was calculated using complicated algorithms to ensure smooth travel throughout the city.

2. Shopping

The next time you’re out buying groceries, new clothes, or household goods, think about how much math it took to make your shopping experience easy. In grocery stores, distributors help with inventory and then coordinate shipping for the produce, non-perishable goods, and other miscellaneous items like greeting cards and mosquito spray. All of that coordination requires advanced mathematics.

Before those items reach the store, global shipping companies have to make sure your clothes from Honduras or your electronics from China make a safe passage around the globe. They need employees with advanced math degrees to calculate appropriate cargo loads, based on the calculations from the marine engineers who constructed the ship.

3. Playing Video Games

Programming is based on the logic found in advanced math. You need to have a thorough understanding of math and mathematical concepts to develop the logic and algorithms for advanced programming in computer science. Advancements in computer science often rely on advancements in math, so staying up to date with the latter can help with other computer science breakthroughs.

4. Watching Sports

Think “Moneyball.” Advanced statistics are used to calculate individual players’ stats, which help determine how successful they would likely be in the pros. While you’re watching a game live on television, you’ll see stats on the screen comparing players’ yards per game, batting averages, goals and assists, and penalties—all calculated at lightning speed. That’s thanks to a team of analysts working vigorously behind the scenes to improve your game time experience.

5. Buying Insurance

Rates for insurance premiums and money owed from claims are based on complicated algorithms that are the result of—you guessed it!—advanced mathematics. For example, if you’re looking to purchase car insurance, any agent can insert your personal information, like the car you drive, your age, marital status, and driving history, into the algorithm. Then the algorithm determines how much you should pay every month for the coverage you requested.

6. Encrypting Information

Keeping personal or sensitive information secure requires cryptography. Serious cryptography research is based in advanced mathematics and number theory, and it requires the highest level of accuracy. Every time you bank online, log in to your phone, or send information through a third-party messaging app, you’re relying on encryption to keep your information private.

7. Investing

When you’re planning for your retirement, chances are you use a mathematical model to determine where and how to invest your money. Individuals with advanced math degrees are making names for themselves on Wall Street by using in-depth statistical analysis to better predict market trends, helping traders make better decisions on the trading floor.

8. Polling

Every time an election season rolls around, you see dozens of polls daily that aim to gauge public opinion of different candidates and public issues. Creating those polls requires a team of number-crunchers who ensure we get the most accurate predictions and projections. Statisticians with advanced math degrees help create the polls, determine the parameters for getting a large and representative sample of the population, and calculate the final poll outcome and margin of error.

9. Taking Medicine

To make sure you’re helping your body and not harming it, you take the recommended dosage of any prescription or over-the-counter medicine. When you receive a prescription medication, your healthcare professional uses math to determine the appropriate dosage, along with the appropriate dosages for any other drugs you’re taking.

For months before you receive the prescription, pharmaceutical companies conduct clinical trials to determine the effectiveness of a particular medicine. These clinical trials also require the work of biostatisticians, who apply advanced mathematical principles to design the trials, gather and analyze the data, and determine a particular treatment’s viability.

Interesting in learning more about an advanced math degree? See the Department of Mathematics graduate programs >