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Using Math as a Pediatrician

Becoming A Pediatrician


Updated March 05, 2006

Q. How is math useful for Pediatricians?

A. In school, whether you are taking geometry, algebra, or calculus, it is hard to understand how it applies to what you will be doing later in life. After all, what good is math?

Not surprisingly, math is good and necessary in almost any profession, especially for doctors.

Although the average Pediatrician doesn't remember all of the calculus he learned and likely doesn't use it much, most Pediatricians do use math to solve every day problems when treating their patients.

The Metric System

Although parents are used to thinking about their child's growth in terms of pounds, inches, and feet, most calculations in medicine are done using the metric system. So Pediatricians need to know how to easily convert measurements, especially between pounds and kilograms.

Medication Dosages

The average Pediatrician writes many prescriptions each day. These prescriptions include medicines ranging from antibiotics and cough and cold medicines to drugs to treat asthma and allergies, and the dosages for most of these medications are determined by a child's weight.

So when a Pediatrician writes a prescription for amoxicillin for a child's ear infection, she has to first consider the child's weight and the medication's dosage. For amoxicillin, that standard dosage is 45mg/kg divided in a twice a day dosage. If the child weighs 22 pounds, that is 10kg (22 pounds x 1 pound/2.2 kg), and his dose is going to be 225mg twice a day (10kg x 45mg/kg = 450mg a day - which is then divided into a twice a day dose).

IV Fluids

Pediatricians also use math to calculate a child's rate of intraveneous fluids.

Body Mass Index

There are many other calculations that Pediatricians do on a regular basis when taking care of their patients. Once of the most well known of these calculations is the one used to calculate a child's body mass index, which can help determine if they are overweight, underweight, or at a healthy weight.

The standard formula for body mass index is: (weight in kilograms)/(height in meters)2

Other Applications

Depending on what specialty you are in, there are many other times that a Pediatrician will use math:
  • A Pediatrician who does research often must use statistics when presenting their findings.
  • A Pediatric Cardiologist might use math formulas to figure out how well a child's heart is working.
  • A Pediatric Nephrologist (kidney specialist) will often use math to see if a child's kidneys are functioning properly.
And the list goes on and on, from Pediatric Pulmonologists using math to interpret a child's pulmonary function tests to an Infectious Disease specialist using math to determine if a child has good levels of antibiotics in his bloodstream.

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