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From Calculus to Copy and Paste: The Hilarious Reality of Math in the Office


16 years back, as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed graduate, I was ready to take on the world with my shiny new degree in hand. I was confident in my extensive knowledge of calculus, stochastic calculus, and all the other fancy math concepts that I had learned throughout my academic journey. As I stepped into my first job, I was excited to finally put my advanced math skills to use. I eagerly opened up my spreadsheet, expecting to create complex formulas and solve intricate equations. However, as I started to work, I quickly realized something shocking. The spreadsheet I was using only had a few basic formulas and pivot tables. It was like a punch in the gut, and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. All those years of math classes, and this was what I had been reduced to? I couldn't help but shed a tear for my lost potential.

Lifecycle of Maths Skills vs Usage
Image Credit: Life and Maths, Pearls of Raw Nerdism

But fear not, dear reader! While your spreadsheets may not require advanced calculus or partial differential equations, the math skills you learned in school are still incredibly valuable in the office. In fact, the most important math skills you need for your spreadsheets are the ones you learned in elementary school.


Let's take a closer look at how different math concepts are used in the office. Algebra, for example, is used to develop and analyze financial models, which can help determine the value of a company or investment. By using algebraic equations and formulas, you can calculate key financial metrics like revenue growth rates and profit margins. It's the backbone of financial analysis and essential for understanding the health of a business.


Geometry is another math concept that's used extensively in the office. By using graphs, charts, and coordinate systems, you can visualize and analyze financial data. Line charts, for example, can be used to track stock prices over time, while scatter plots can be used to identify relationships between different financial variables. Geometry is essential for making sense of the numbers and presenting them in a way that's easy to understand.


Statistics is another crucial math skill in the office. By analyzing financial data, calculating risk and return, and making investment decisions, you can use statistical analysis to identify trends in historical stock prices and to calculate the expected return and risk of a portfolio of stocks. It's essential for understanding market trends and making informed investment decisions.


Finally, calculus is used to calculate rates of change and growth of financial variables, such as interest rates, exchange rates, and stock prices. The derivative of a stock price function, for example, can be used to calculate the instantaneous rate of return on a stock. And advanced calculus concepts like partial differential equations and stochastic calculus are used to model complex financial instruments like options and derivatives. While these advanced concepts may not be used every day, they're essential for understanding the behavior of these instruments and making informed investment decisions.


So, while it may be disappointing to realize that your spreadsheets don't require you to use all the complex math skills you learned in school, don't despair! The math skills you learned in elementary school are still incredibly valuable in the office. By mastering these basic concepts, you can transform a simple spreadsheet into a powerful modeling tool that can help your organization make informed financial decisions and achieve long-term success.


In conclusion, as a life learner, It was a rude awakening, but it taught me a valuable lesson about the real world of business and how to create meaningful data models, dashboards, and spreadsheets and so, I would like to stress the importance of not underestimating the value of basic math skills in the office. It's these skills that provide the foundation for complex financial analysis and modeling. So don't be discouraged if your spreadsheets don't require you to use all those complex equations you learned in school. Embrace the basic math skills you do need and use them to become a financial wizard in the office. Who knows, you might just impress your boss and make all those years of math classes worthwhile!


Here are some resources that can help you improve your Excel skills and learn how to create meaningful data models and dashboards:

  1. Exceljet (https://exceljet.net/): This website offers a comprehensive guide to Excel formulas, functions, and shortcuts, along with helpful tips and tricks for working with data in Excel.

  2. Microsoft Excel Support (https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/excel): This official support site for Microsoft Excel offers a wealth of resources for users, including articles, videos, and tutorials on a wide range of topics related to Excel.

  3. Excel Campus (https://www.excelcampus.com/): This website offers in-depth tutorials and courses on advanced Excel techniques, such as creating dynamic charts and using Power Query to transform data.

  4. Udemy (https://www.udemy.com/topic/microsoft-excel/): This online learning platform offers a variety of courses on Excel, including beginner-level courses on Excel basics and more advanced courses on data analysis and dashboard creation.

  5. Excel Easy (https://www.excel-easy.com/): This website offers a comprehensive guide to Excel, from basic formulas and functions to advanced data analysis techniques and VBA programming.

  6. Exceljet YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/exceljet): This YouTube channel offers a wide range of Excel tutorials and tips, covering everything from basic formulas to advanced modeling techniques.

  7. MyExcelOnline (https://www.myexcelonline.com/): This website offers a variety of free and paid courses on Excel, including courses on data analysis, dashboard creation, and Power BI.

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