Discrete Math, the class that tells you where to use it

Ronald Myers, Writer

A student sits bored in Algebra or Geometry, their teacher lecturing them about theorems or the quadratic formula. To the average student a single question comes up: “When will I ever use this?”

Down the hall, there is a different math class called Discrete math. Considered to be easier and being the class that fewer seniors take, many might not think about taking it. However, those who do find a wealth of information not just on the subject but on the question that plagues so many students:

Eli McElroy, the current discrete math teacher said, “I think like the big idea is just learning how to think mathematically, and solve problems using math and logical reasoning to solve problems.”

The class’s subject matter ranges from math that might be used in everyday life to less-used but important skills. To end the quarter, the class will be doing a personal finance unit. This is quite different from the first unit which focused on graph theory, which is using nodes and interconnecting lines to create a visual representation of how different places interconnect. For example, a trucking company might use graph theory to create the most efficient overall routing of trucks between cities, and before computers graph theory would be used to create play offs and seasons brackets for sports leagues.

For some of the subjects their real world applications are obvious. For example, one of the topics, voting systems are used every year for our student body government and are used in countries around the world. The class doesn’t just cover how they work, but why they work and what lead to their creation.

Personal finance is something that is required in one’s daily life, especially for seniors looking at possibly moving out, going to college, or just planning for the future.

For others it’s a bit more difficult to tell. Graph theory is useful for planning out the fastest route of travel between several cities, figuring out scheduling conflicts, or in the game “We Were Here Together” it’s one of the puzzles pictured below.

The objective is to create a route for the electric to flow through based on player two’s graph using the cylinders present. There are six nodes with nodes three and four being unchangeable. The players need to work together to find a path that player one can create using the eight additional cylinders in the room to create that path.

Another example of graph theory given by the discrete math teacher, Mr. McElroy was a round robin tournament he was asked to help set up. It was going to be red robin style so everyone needed to play each other at least once. 

When asked about the process he said, “I wanted to in order to create the schedule that almost became a graph theory problem and making sure that everyone played everyone the correct amount of times and everything like that.”

Arithmetic’s is useful for adding up several variable equations at once and is a small portion of calculus. It also is useful for finding how an equation changes and is useful for sharpening your base algebra skills.


Overall, the class isn’t your standard math class, with the units all being independent from each other so you won’t need to worry about forgetting something from a prior unit. However, if you want a math class with more immediate examples of relevance, then discrete math is most certainly that class for you.