BREAKING: Student uses school skills in real life, feels ‘nerdy’

Emily Prestwood 332 copy
|Emily Prestwood Reporter |

I did it. It was crazy. It was weird. But, standing in the middle of Market Street, I realized I had actually done it. I had used chemistry and math outside of class.

Let’s rewind back a decade or so to when I was in the third grade. This was the first time I wondered about the importance of school.

“Why are we learning this? I’m never going to use this in the real world. Why can’t we learn about stuff I actually need to know, like how to finance a house or budget for food?”

OK, so maybe I wasn’t super concerned about housing in the third grade, but I can’t be the only one who’s had similar thoughts. Throughout high school, I can remember students of all ages complaining that it was pointless to learn things like the Pythagorean theorem or how to recognize synecdoche.

I can even remember challenging my history teacher to name one practical circumstance in which I would need to know the name of civil war generals in “the real world.”

Usually teachers would say some vague statement to hush students’ lack of interest.

By the time I got to my senior year, teachers became more honest by stating things like, “You probably won’t use this knowledge unless you become a teacher.”

My view of these “excess skills” completely flipped a week ago in Market Street. Recently in my chemistry class, we have been working through conversion factors and equations in which you convert a measurement in one unit to another unit.

For example, we have worked through problems in which we convert miles to meters or ounces to liters.

My friends and I were buying some food and drinks at Market Street when one of them asked if he should by a case of Coca Cola cans or Coca Cola plastic bottles. The bottles appeared to be slightly cheaper, but the cans and bottles held different amounts of liquid, and the cases had different numbers of bottles and cans.

Without even thinking, I utilized my knowledge of conversion factors and quickly calculated how much money would be spent on each ounce of Coca-Cola in the two different cases. In a matter of moments, I blurted out that the cans would be a few cents cheaper. My friends looked at me slightly confused.

“You know, if you just use conversion factors, it’s obvious that the cans are cheaper,” I said.

I have never felt so nerdy in my life. But let’s face it – I used chemistry and math to save money and buy groceries. Talk about using random skills in “the real world.”

So the moral of this story is to stay in school or you’ll never know how to efficiently purchase groceries.

Take on a challenge and take advantage of class. Tedious practice worksheets and hours of studying suck, so why not practice in say, the real world?

Emily Prestwood can be contacted via email at

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