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FE Magazine - Issue 4: The mathematics I do on a daily basis

This page has been archived. The content was correct at the time of original publication, but is no longer updated.
Created on 15 June 2009 by NCETM_FE_editor
Updated on 16 July 2009 by ncetm_administrator


FE Magazine - for post-16 mathematics and numeracy educators
FE - work-based learning - adult numeracy - offender learning

A website designer and photographer tells us why he needs mathematics. 

header todayWhy do I need mathematics?
It must be great to work on the internet all day, building websites, creating new ideas, designing graphics, working with cool photos… and, oh yes… surfing the web all day!

That’s the response I generally receive from youngsters who find out what I do for a living, and it is why we always have a queue of eager students wanting to do their work experience with us!

One thing they often do not realise is the role that mathematics plays within our work: Maths…? Why do you need maths to build a website? Well, it’s needed to work out various aspects of website construction, from the overall dimensions of a site in pixels to calculating the spacing of images, text and graphics, often in percentages of the site dimensions as a whole. Sure, modern website-building software helps with these calculations - but then, like a pocket calculator, it is only useful in the hands of someone who knows its capabilities and how to use it.

I am fortunate as I effectively have two jobs in one, both of which I enjoy immensely. Half of my time is spent building websites and the rest of the time I am a photographer. “Cool!” say the kids. “Do you get to photograph celebrities?!” Well… in a word, no! I mostly get to photograph company buildings, people at work and coffins - yes, I do mean real coffins! Mind you, I do get to photograph the odd MP every now and then. But I doubt they fall into the realm of ‘celebrity’!

Even as a photographer though, maths is still very important. Just a couple of examples would be, for instance, calculating lens crop factors and working out size ratios of prints. To explain: a digital DX SLR sensor is smaller than 35mm film – in the case of my camera it’s actually 1.5 times smaller. This means that a 27-300mm lens would actually be an 18-200mm lens when attached to my camera! Then, after calculating that, when you print your photo you need to understand resolution: for example a print at 150dpi (dots per inch) can be twice as large as your original 300dpi image but will only have half the resolution.

Now, I must admit that at school, mathematics was not my favourite subject by any stretch of the imagination. The very thought of fractions, equations and mental arithmetic made me cringe! Looking back, the biggest reason I can think of as to why I disliked it so much was that it never seemed relevant. There never seemed to be any relevance as to why we were learning a particular type of maths and to this day I can still remember being sent out of the class for cheekily saying to the tutor, “Sir, why have we got to learn fractions? We went decimal in 1971!?!?

But I am glad I persevered, as the job I do now would be much tougher, if not impossible without some maths knowledge. I soon understood that to get ahead in life you must have a good knowledge of mathematics...it’s not just for bankers and accountants!

Is there someone you know who would be willing to contribute to this regular column? Please email your suggestions to us.

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FE Magazine Issue 4 - download as a PDF
Teaching and Learning Programme Subject Learning Coaches LSIS (Learning and Skills Improvement Service)
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Taking the Numeracy Challenge Forward
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29 July 2009 13:23
More sofisticated problems include filling in a given area with images of different sizes. It can lead to interesting packing algorithms!
By sara.santos
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29 July 2009 13:22
There is another piece of mathematics useful in photography: the circle theorem of angles on the same segment. A photographer that wishes to capture, say, a set of people on stage may wish to move around whilst keeping the same scene in his/her camera. The range/angle captured by the lens should be preserved. To do so the photographer moves in a circle that has that stage as a segment.
By sara.santos
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