Book Review: Math For Grownups

Book Review: Math For Grownups


Resurrecting Math 101… for adults.

We’re taught from a young age how to add numbers, subtract, multiply and divide. By using numbers wisely and accurately, we can figure out how much a car gets to the gallon, whether that new couch will fit in the living room and even help our kids solve complex mathematical problems. Admittedly, we may be rusty in our use of all thing mathematical, forgetting even some of the arithmetic lessons that served us well in school.

Laura Laing, a math educator, has written “Math for Grownups: Relearn the Arithmetic You Forgot From School,” to address the math deficiencies we sometimes encounter today as adults. Yes, figuring out a tip should be something that we do in our heads, but let’s face it — is the 15 percent on the subtotal or should we include the tax? What if you want to reward good service and leave 18 percent?

Cost Estimators

Being precise with numbers doesn’t always work especially when time is of the essence. In these cases Laing encourages people to estimate, calling estimation your “best friend.” An important way to reach an estimate is to round up and round down multiple items. For example, if you’re buying a new wardrobe, your costs might be $19.50 for a shirt, $199 for a suit, $77 for a pair of shoes, $22 for a belt and $18.25 for a tie. Rounding makes these amounts to $20, $200, $75, $20 and $20 totals $335, very close to the $335.75 you’ll actually pay for these items.

Laing divides her book into sections devoted to shopping at a store, a car dealership, buying a home, outfitting that home, banking, going to the gym and traveling on the road, among other of life’s many pursuits.

Logical and Sensible

Many of Laing’s tips are commonsensical and may inspire an “I already know that,” from the reader. But, Laing gives reason to what is often the obvious including her chapter on financing a home buy: it not only makes financial sense to put money down on a home to avoid the possibility of being “upside down” on the loan, but to secure a better rate from lenders and avoid the dreaded PMI: private mortgage insurance.

Laing spells out to the reader how to quickly calculate a down payment. For example the standard 20 percent down payment on a home buy that helps the purchaser get a home is achieved by multiplying .20 x by the price of the home. Specifically .20 x $146,000 means that the buyer will need to come up with $29,200 as the down payment. This can quickly be realized by multiplying 146,000 by 2 and then moving the decimal point over one space to get the right amount.

Exercise Regimen

You eat a 380 calorie donut and are wracked with guilt. However, you quickly realize that a workout at the gym can burn off those calories and free your mind. At this point, you’ll need to turn to chapter 9 where Laing details how you body mass index will determine just how much of any activity you’ll have to tackle before those calories are canceled.

Wisely, Laing references Olympics medalist Michael Phelps who consumes five to six times the recommended calorie consumption and stays in shape — a 12,000 calorie diet enables Phelps to have the energy he needs to compete and win, proving once and for all that it isn’t so much how you take in, but what you expend. Or at least in theory it should work that way.

If you’re still a math whiz, this book can help you communicate with your kids or offer your spouse a primer on how to do the same. Yes, you may have forgotten how to solve complex equations, but this book simplifies everything, making each lesson learned fun in the process.


“Math for Grownups: Relearn the Arithmetic You Forgot From School”, Laura Laing, 2011


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Categories: Book Reviews