Mathematical Skills: What They Are And Examples

By Chris Kolmar - Dec. 18, 2020
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Improving your mathematical skills will increase your chances for professional success, no matter what career path you pursue.

Many professionals use mathematical skills directly in their day-to-day duties without realizing it.

Even for the rare jobs that never directly deal with numbers and figures, you’ll often need the same problem-solving and critical thinking abilities used in math to succeed.

In this article, we’ll cover the most important mathematical skills to master for the workplace. You’ll also learn how to improve your math skills and highlight them during the job-search process.

What Are Mathematical Skills?

The term “mathematical skills” doesn’t just refer to nebulous topics taught in school, such as calculus. They’re the practical abilities that are useful no matter the industry or size of business you work in.

This includes skills such as:

  1. Time management. Being able to manage your time efficiently is critical for your day-to-day activities, in addition to long-term planning success.

    The average person wastes three entire hours each day due to inefficient time management.

    Not only does that immediately translate to wasted money, but to wasted time that could be devoted to your non-work passions and activities.

    The inability to manage time over the long-term could also lead to underperformance and missed deadlines that could harm or even destroy your career.

  2. Mental arithmetic. Being able to do mental math quickly will serve you well in a variety of professions.

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    Retail workers may need to quickly and accurately figure out a customer’s change when given a large sum of money.

    If a business client suggests an order or asks about certain specifications, you might need to quickly determine the mathematical viability of whatever their request is.

  3. Constructing logical arguments. Many careers demand the same precise, logical reasoning that’s used to solve math problems.

    An attorney needs to ensure that their legal argument logically follows from the facts and evidence provided.

    A sales representative must present relevant reasons to clients in order to convince them to purchase a product.

  4. Abstract thinking. Abstract thinking is the ability to understand and compare non-physical concepts, such as freedom or honesty.

    Improving your abstract thinking skills is useful for any career that involves creativity or navigating through complex rules.

    For example, programmers and physicists use abstract thinking when learning how a program or system functions.

  5. Data analysis. A large variety of professions will require you to interpret and analyze data at some point.

    Any scientific career will involve heavy interpretation of complex sets of data.

    Jobs in business-related fields will likewise require you to understand charts and figures in order to extract meaningful patterns.

  6. Research. Knowing how to effectively research information is crucial for developing solutions for the many problems you’ll face in your career.

    In the age of the internet, there is a nearly infinite wealth of information about any topic you could wish to learn about.

    The downside is that much of that information is misleading or false, making it critical that you develop the ability to fact-check and distinguish reputable sources from untrustworthy ones.

  7. Visualization. The same ability to visualize problems and outcomes is critical for finding solutions in the workplace.

    Any problem you face during your career will present a variety of possible solutions with which to tackle it.

    Visualization skills allow you to weigh the available data and tools, the target goal, and other factors to solve the challenge.

  8. Creativity. Improving your creativity skills allows you to come up with new ideas and innovations.

    Presenting fresh ideas and solutions will also help you stand out among the competition in the workplace.

    This makes the skill applicable to almost every possible career, not just those commonly considered “creative.”

  9. Forecasting. Forecasting is the ability to extrapolate events into the future based on available data and knowledge.

    This skill is critical for any job that involves planning for the future.

    For example, a manager needs to be able to forecast details such as revenue and budget into the future to make effective decisions in the present.

  10. Attention to detail. Some jobs require more attention to small details than others.

    An athlete may be mostly unaffected by miscalculating some small aspect of their daily fitness regimen, but a software developer that misses a single piece of syntax could crash an entire program.

How to Improve Your Mathematical Skills

You can improve your mathematical skills in the same way that you would improve any other skill – through consistent practice.

More specifically, there are two key actions you should follow:

  • Acquire conceptual understanding. You can’t improve a mathematical skill if you don’t even know what that math skill entails.

    For example, suppose that you wish to improve your data analysis skills.

    A quick Google search reveals that the main elements of data analysis include understanding statistics, visuals such as charts and graphs, and how to apply the data to practical problems.

    You could then look up those specific elements and further branch down to fill any gaps in your knowledge. Use the internet and it’s nearly infinite examples and descriptions to help you learn.

  • Solve practice problems. It’s not enough to understand a concept to master it; you must practice practically applying it.

    This piece of advice applies to certain math skills more than others. You can find plenty of online games to help you improve your hard skills, such as mental arithmetic, but maybe not your creativity.

    You’ll have to use your own creativity to find ways to target those skills and challenge yourself in the same way that you would target a specific muscle group when working out.

How to Highlight Mathematical Skills on a Resume

Improving your mathematical skills positively affects your work performance.

However, we still want to find a way to highlight them to recruiters, so they know that we’ve mastered them.

There are a few important guidelines to follow:

  • List or prove on your resume. The skills section of your resume can be an okay place to mention your math skills.

    1. The job listing states the skill as a requirement. If your resume doesn’t contain the specific term, some companies’ applicant tracking systems (ATS) may automatically filter you out.

    2. Not significant enough to waste additional resume space. Despite being required, some skills may not be essential enough to waste more than a single bullet point talking about.

      For example, a job may require basic clerical skills such as multiplying and dividing small figures.

      Once you meet this baseline requirement, however, companies would rather read more about your other qualifications than your ability to multiply well.

    “Critical-thinking skills” and “problem-solving skills” are generically added to so many resumes that the terms often become meaningless.

    A better way to highlight your math skills on a resume is to prove it through the results you’ve achieved. Use numbers to emphasize the positive value you created for a past employer.

    For example, “Developed a new marketing strategy by analyzing millions of data points that improved customer conversion rates by 23%” proves to recruiters that you possess strong data-analysis abilities.

  • Prove them in your cover letter. You want to give examples of when you used mathematical skills to create value for a past employer.

    This differs from the resume strategy in that cover letters are narrower in scope.

    Your resume needs to fit many examples on a single page, while your cover letter can target a few key skills to demonstrate with greater detail.

    To figure out which math skills to focus on, pay attention to the essential requirements and duties listed in the job listing. Make your best judgment on the most important skills to highlight.

    Unlike on your resume, where simply listing a mathematical skill without examples to back it up can sometimes make sense, never do this on your cover letter.

  • Explain in-depth during your job interview. Job interviews allow you the time to dive much deeper into examples of how you’ve utilized mathematical skills.

    Consider the previous resume example about developing a new marketing strategy using data-analysis skills.

    During the interview, you could expand on the specific technical skills and tools you used. Explain the initial problem and the thought process you employed to tackle it.

    Of course, the type of job interview does affect the content of your answer. If the job isn’t directly related to marketing or data-analysis, then expand only on your transferable skills and the more generally applicable aspects of your thought-process.

Improving Your Mathematical Skills Is Worth the Effort

Many professionals neglect to train their mathematical skills in favor of skills that are more directly relevant to their jobs. While direct skills are important, you should improve both categories of skills to help you stand out from the crowd.

Most mathematical skills are transferable, meaning they’ll remain useful throughout your entire career rather than just at your current job. From researcher to nurse, designer to manager; mathematical skills such as data analysis and problem-solving will serve you well.

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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