Why It Matters: Whole Numbers, Fractions, Decimals, Percents, and Problem Solving

Why learn essential math principles?

Mathematics is often referred to solely as a subject of study in school—while in reality, you use math all the time to make daily calculations and decisions. There are times when you need to work with numbers in a variety of ways to determine how you want to proceed with a purchase or a project.

Group of six frosted chocolate cupcakes sitting on a white platter with chocolate shavings sprinkled on top.

Your friend Samuel is graduating next week and you want to throw him a party to celebrate. He’ll be moving away next month to start a management internship with a national retailer. Everyone is proud of him and you know dozens of people who will want to wish him farewell and good luck. It looks like an evening event will work for most people, and your favorite party theme is a dessert bar: cupcakes, fizzy drinks, ice cream sundaes, and cookies.

At the grocery store you see two different brands of cake mix to make the cupcakes: Sweet Sprinkles and Chocolover. They are both on sale for different prices. Sweet Sprinkles cake mix boxes are [latex]2[/latex] for $[latex]5.50[/latex], or [latex]1[/latex] for $[latex]3.75[/latex]. Chocolover cake mix boxes are [latex]3[/latex] for $[latex]6.99[/latex], or [latex]1[/latex] for $[latex]2.55[/latex].

First, you’ll want to figure out the most economical way to purchase the boxes of cake mix to have enough for everyone. Then, once you’re home, you’ll have to triple your frosting recipe to make enough for the party — and there are fraction amounts ([latex]\frac{3}{4}[/latex] cup) in the original recipe! You also know you’ll need to estimate the number of drinks that will be consumed, which will likely involve rounding. Some of Samuel’s other friends offered to chip in to pay for all the party supplies, so you’ll need to calculate how to split the cost evenly between the group.

This party is turning out to involve a lot of math! Let’s review some core math concepts, so that we can better work with complex accounting equations in later modules.