Everyday Math

Exploring the mathematical problems that occur in our every day lives. Learn how to think like a mathematician as you explore everyday problems. Questions we explore in this blog include: How to become a millionaire? What should you major in? Should you go to graduate school? How are taxes calculated? If you buy an item on sale at 50% off, if you put it on your credit card making only the minimum payment, is it actually on sale?

Possible future posts will include: Buying a house, buying a car, satellite communications, quantifying gerrymandering, gas mileage, taxes, traffic flow, how do radios and wi-fi work, how to gamble intelligently?

Do you want to be a millionaire? Do you think you will be a millionaire?

When I ask the first question in class, most everyone says yes. Who wouldn't want a million dollars? When I ask the second question, most of the hands go down. When I first polled my students this semester, about 20% of my business majors said they believed they would be millionaires. When I polled my upper-level math majors, only 4% of them believed they would be millionaires. Then I shared a recipe that is guaranteed to make every student a millionaire, and then over 90% of the students polled reported they would be millionaires.

The first video and activity share the most important lesson I believe I can share with people. It shows how to use a spreadsheet to calculate your projected net worth over the course of your career. The mathematics is simple and fun, but the outcome is empowering and seems to transform the way our students think about money and their career.

How long will it take you to repay your student loans after college, and how much will paying a little more each month save you?

The average student loan debt of a college graduate in 2019 is about $35,000. Luckily, most FGCU students will graduate with much less than the national average. In this video I show you how banks will calculate your minimum monthly payment, and show you how much you can save by paying an extra $100 a month on top of the minimum payment. This same calculator works for car and mortgage loans as well.

If a TV is on sale for 25% off, and you have to use a credit card to purchase it, and you only make the minimum payment is it really on sale?

This example applies to purchasing any big ticket item, but suppose you see a TV on sale from $500 marked down to $375. That is 25% off the suggested retail price. You do not have $500 to spare today, but you do have a credit card with a $1000 limit on it. This video explores how much you will pay for the TV as you make different monthly payments.

How did you pick your major/career and will it bring you the happiness or financial stability you are hoping for?

This question gets a variety of answers in class, and an alarming number of "I dunnos," or "because my parents told me to." College is a huge investment of time, money, and energy, and there is a lot of data to suggest your choice of major is much more important in predicting success and happiness than your school choice. Even more important is succeeding in your major. The highest 25% of liberal arts majors make more than the bottom 25% of STEM majors. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 80% of students change their major at some point in their college career.

The second video will show you how to research your major and career options given your interests using data compiled by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Department of Education, and payscale.com.

Is graduate (law/medical) school worth it?

If there is sufficient interest, I will help answer this question in a series of videos and spreadsheet calculations.

The first video will show how I cost myself millions dollars by choosing to complete my PhD and become a professor at FGCU, and why I still think it was all worth it! I plan to also walk through the calculation with my some of my friends who are attorneys and medical doctors. My experience is that young attorneys typically say law school was a bad investment, but young doctors are more optimistic. Both work long hours and take on huge amounts of debt, so answering this question may require the help of some of my friends in the psychology or sociology departments.