This is the most common question that I have received over all my professional years of working with students. Finally, I've decided to answer it, hopefully shedding light on why math is so important in our lives, and why we should all have at least some working knowledge of the subject. There are just so many practical and awesome examples in our surroundings.
Before I delve into a few of those examples, it's important to generally categorize people into one of two types: creators and consumers. Math is important in both worlds where these people exist, and I hope to shed some light for you on the matter.
Let's first take a closer look at city infrastructure, something we are all familair with. Did you know that there are individuals and teams of people out there who sit down and take the time to plan the way a city is to be built, which includes size and shape of roadways, architectural structure of buildings and homes, location and timing of streetlights for efficient traffic management, design of city parks, and all the "machines" we depend on (atms, computers, automatic doors in stores, gas pumps, subways, etc.)? Who are the geniuses behind all these conveniences? People like you and me, of course, and most importantly, people proficient in math.
Math is involved in the creation of these projects, and it affects us because we depend on them to make city life simple, fun, and efficient. For this reason, it's important to nurture the love of math, so that those who really take a liking to the subject and its possibilities can continue to nurture the efficiency and creation of our cities and conveniences of our daily lives.
Now, let's get to the other side of this picture and admit that we are all consumers. It's just the way the world works. We need stuff: food, clothes, shelter, and of course, our luxuries, an unending and diverse list of the things we value. What does this have to do with math? Well, at the core of a consumer society, we use money, a tool that we can either learn how to manage wisely or use carelessly.
Math is obviously involved with money because we have to count it. "Yeah, but I don't have to learn all that other stuff like algebra and calculus. I don't need to study that to handle money," you are probably thinking. You're probably right, so let's leave those subjects to the creators, as discussed earlier. However, if we take it a step further, there are other areas that go beyond counting when it comes to money: budgeting, credit cards, investments, and earnings. This takes our skill set just a bit further than counting. It's about organization, anticipation, and planning. Ultimately, we've got to take care of our money so that we can minimize the frustrations that potentially come with it. You'd be surprised by how much people could ease their frustrations with just a little bit of education and discipline in math.
There are many more practical examples of math in our daily lives, and I write this with just a couple of the ones that I believe affect most of us. Hopefully I've motivated you enough to care enough about the subject of math to either nurture someone else's love of it (our creators in society) or educate yourself on the subject to enrich your daily life as a consumer.