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How Do Pediatricians Use Math in Their Job?

By Ruben J. Nazario ; Updated June 13, 2017

Numbers and mathematical functions are important aspects of healthcare in general. Doctors are trained in the use of mathematical equations and statistical analysis during college and medical school. When doctors specialize, they may use mathematics for different reasons, based on their specialty of choice. Pediatricians, who specialize in dealing with diseases of children and adolescents, use mathematics for certain specific purposes.

Using Math During the Well-Child Checkup

Pediatricians use mathematics during the well-child checkup, the periodic visit that children undergo to check on their growth and development, and for the prevention of disease. Pediatricians use numbers to calculate the patient’s growth, using growth charts to assess how well a child is developing physically. Children’s weight and height are measured in kilograms and centimeters, respectively. These measurements are then converted from the metric system to the English system, using math to change kilograms to pounds and centimeters to inches. Pediatricians also use math during regular checkups to calculate the amount of liquid in a given shot or vaccine. This is measured in cubic centimeters (cc’s) or milliliters.

Using Math During a Child's Acute Illness

When a child is sick, pediatricians use math for many reasons. Vital signs are an important element in the evaluation of a sick child. Doctors measure temperature to check for fever. The temperature is sometimes measured in centigrade degrees, which then need to be converted to the Fahrenheit scale. Doctors also need to count a child’s respiratory rate and heart rate and measure the blood pressure.

Using Math When Giving Medicines

When pediatricians give medicines to children, the doses are based on the child’s weight. Children’s weight is reported in pounds, but in hospitals, the dosage of medicine is based on the child’s weight in kilos. Doctors recalculate the patient’s weight in kilograms before giving them any medicine. The appropriate dosage for medicines and pharmaceuticals for children is expressed in milligrams per kilograms. Once children are older and their weight approaches adult levels, then they receive adult standard dosages for medicines.

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