14 Real Examples of Algebra in Everyday Life | Free PDF

Algebra in Real Life

Be honest. When you were in middle school and high school, trying to learn algebra, even if you didn’t say it out loud, you thought it. “I’m never going to use this in real life!” Guess what? We do use algebra. Sure, not all parts, every day.

But, algebra is everywhere. In fact, it’s so common that you might not even realize it’s there. Algebra shows up in all kinds of places, from paying bills to balancing a checkbook to reading a price tag at the grocery store.

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high school algebra textbook

It’s easy to take these everyday activities for granted, but an understanding of the basics—and the additional details that come with them—can make life much easier in the long run. So what is algebra? And how can you use this knowledge every day? Here are a few examples of algebra that you might not be aware of.

What even is algebra?

Algebra is defined as “the part of mathematics in which letters and other general symbols are used to represent numbers and quantities in formulae and equations.”

One of the more common applications of algebra is high school math. High school algebra helps students learn how to use equations and graphs to solve problems, so they can get a better understanding of what their answers mean.

At its core, high school algebra focuses on two major concepts: linear equation solving and quadratic equation solving.

Linear equations are used to solve for one variable while quadratic equations are used to solve for two or three variables.

You might recall using linear equations when you were in middle school or ninth grade, but this is just a small taste of the types of problems that high school algebra can help you with.

how to solve linear equations in algebra

We may not always use a computer or pen and paper to document these algebraic equations or algebraic expressions, but they take place in our brains. So often we are using algebra in the real world or everyday life, and we’re not even thinking about it.

In high school, we were given boring word problems or math problems, and we all thought it was a waste of time, right?

Algebra in Real Life

In addition to the examples below, we use algebra all the time–at the grocery store, the home improvement store. We all have everyday problems to figure out, so, enter algebra!

Small Business: As a small business owner, I use algebra all the time to figure out my annual and monthly expenses. Some vendors that I use give me a significant discount for paying annually, but I still have to figure out the monthly costs.

Showing our Dogs Some Love: Paying bills is an unfortunate part of life, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. If you’re constantly balancing your checkbook and always seem to spend more than you make on your dogs, try using algebra.

You can create equations and total up costs of owning a dog. Figure out how much you spend on toys, treats, food and vet bills each year. Then divide that by months (12) to figure out what you are truly spending. How does that figure into your household budget? Adjust and adapt as necessary, to shower your dog with treats and love, but not overdraw your bank account.

Buying School Supplies: When children are preparing for school, they often find it difficult knowing how much they’ll need for clothes, school supplies, and books. If they want to get through the school year without going over their budget, they can use algebra too!

You could even teach them how to figure out how many items they need based on their size before buying clothes or supplies from the store. This will help them stay within budget while still having fun shopping with Mom or Dad

Kobe: The late beloved Kobe Bryant was well known to shoot trash in his trash can and socks in his hamper, dreaming of NBA days as a kid. Kobe was also well known to be highly intelligent, and likely used algebra to calculate those shots. When he was aiming at the trash can, he likely calculated the distance between himself and trash can, possible air resistance, the weight of the paper or sock, required trajectory or path, and the force required so that the item would land into the trash can or hamper. No, he likely did not write this down, formulate it and figure it out on paper first.

These are split-second calculations that go on in our heads without even consciously thinking about it. And when the paper or sock lands on the floor instead of our intended target, we recalculate and try again. Algebra!

Planning Your Summer Vacation: If you’re planning your summer vacation, you might want to prepare for gas prices beforehand. Using algebra again can help you save some money on gas by estimating how much gas costs per mile traveled at different speeds for up-to-date prices near your destination city or state rather than waiting until you arrive at the airport or train station and cross fingers that gas prices haven’t gone

Getting Ready for School: When we are leaving for school or work in the morning, we all have things we need to do first. Shower, dress, bathroom stuff, eating, packing lunches, feeding pets…some days the list seems endless!

But, you can use algebra and create a formula to determine exactly how much time you need in the morning to get out the door on time.

eating breakfast

Paying your bills: An example of this is balancing a checkbook, or paying your bills. When you get to the end of the month and have to pay your bills, you need to divide up all of the money that you’ve accumulated into individual checks for each bill.

You might be able to save some money by making larger payments on certain bills, but if you don’t make enough money by splitting it evenly among them, then you’ll need to do more work. This is where algebra comes in handy.

You can use algebraic equations in order to figure out just how much each bill will cost and how much you can afford. If it turns out that there’s not enough money left over for certain bills, then you’ll want to talk about possible solutions with your family members and adjust your spending habits.

If you want to take it a bit further, you can call different utility providers and ask for the lowest prices for things like phones, electricity, water and sewer. Calculate how much your family uses, and how you might save money if you switched.

Sports and Algebra

Algebra appears in sports all the time!

Using the Kobe example above, it’s not necessarily something we consciously use or plot out on paper every time.

Sports Coaches: Whether you’re hitting a ball with a bat, serving a volleyball with your hand, shooting a basket or hopefully throwing that game winning touchdown….you’re using algebra. And, the best coaches know how to break it down and adjust for winning skills.

Baseball Cards: Have a card collector at home? I do! He collects basketball and football cards. There are all kinds of things you can do to monitor your card spending and card collection value using algebra. Sometimes my tween struggles to understand that he’s not always going to see the money-value return on the cards that he spends. Or, he overestimates how much his collection is worth.

You can do both with algebra. Keep track of how much you’re spending on sports cards, and separately keep track of how much your more valuable cards are worth. Using formulas, you can determine your gains and losses as you collect sports cards and memorabilia. But, hey, can’t put a price on fun and passion.

14 Real Examples of Algebra in Everyday Life | Free PDF

Your Savings Account: Your checking account balance is $50,000. What percent of your money do you have saved? What are your monthly expenses, and are you on track for retirement? How much do you need to save going forward to hit your target retirement date?

Other Algebraic Examples

  • You want to know how much it would cost for two people to go on a vacation but don’t have enough money.
  • You’re calculating how many ounces of ice cream you need to buy for an ice cream party you’re having.
  • You’re preparing your taxes and want to know the total tax owed after fees and credits are applied.
  • You’re working at a job that pays based on commission, so your paycheck depends on how many sales you make during the day.

Everyday Algebra Examples

So, the next time your child or student tells you, “I’m never going to use this!” you can give so many examples of how we are using algebra and math knowledge to solve many everyday problems.

Algebra and Learning Disabilities

It’s important to note that if a child has some learning disabilities, they likely will struggle with algebra. And I’m not just talking about tests for dyscalculia. There are many skill deficiencies that will affect algebraic thinking.

Algebra requires:

  • Sequencing
  • Visualizing and application
  • abstract thinking
  • executive functioning

And much more. If a child is really struggling to grasp algebraic concepts, you may want to consider assessing their executive functioning skills. A student who lacks any of those skills will struggle with not only learning algebra, but applying it to everyday life.

Linear Relationships Printable

Here you go–some basic algebra linear equation worksheets


high school algebra textbook

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