The Math Forum

Ask Dr. Math - Questions and Answers from our Archives
Associated Topics || Dr. Math Home || Search Dr. Math

Math and the Law

Date: 11/24/98 at 17:14:46
From: Eduardo Alvarez
Subject: Algebra

First of all I would like to congratulate you because of these cool Web 
pages. My question is the following:

   How can we use algebra in real life?

I'm kind of confused because I don't know how do we use algebra in 
real life. Please respond to me as soon as possible because this is a 

Thank you,
Eduardo Alvarez

Date: 11/25/98 at 14:12:31
From: Doctor Terrel
Subject: Re: Algebra

Hi there,

Lots of people need to use algebra in real life - doctors, bankers, 
even lawyers (believe it!).

Look at this e-mail I once saw on the Internet, from Gerald VonKorff, 
dated October 29, 1998:

I'm a lawyer. I use mathematics all the time. Let me give you a few

1. I am defending the State of Minnesota in an industrial tax 
   appeal. The appraiser on the other side creates a regression 
   analysis of so-called comparable sales. The regression analysis is 
   voodoo econometrics. But if I have no understanding of variance, of 
   statistical significance etc, how do I challenge his junk 

2. Several years ago, I defended a County in a major environmental
   litigation. The Army Corps of Engineers sought to fine my client 
   $250,000 per day, because allegedly the County changed the course 
   and current of a drainage ditch in a way that allegedly illegally 
   increased drainage in violation of Section 504 of the Clean Water 
   Act. Using hydrological equations, we were able to show, indeed to 
   convince the Army Corps that their mathematics and engineering was 
   wrong, because they failed to properly apply Manning's formula. 
   Result, a saving of millions of dollars to our client.

3. A car is in an accident. An expert for the other side 
   reconstructs an accident using faulty physical principles. If the 
   lawyer does not understand physics, the lawyer is handicapped in 
   challenging the analysis.

Lawyers and their clients constantly use mathematics and statistics to
analyze data to persuade. A lawyer who understands mathematics is a
better and more persuasive lawyer. I believe that the same can be said
for other professions. Engineering of course is obvious. But medicine
and related fields too require an understanding of mathematics. 
Geography, environmental sciences, surveying - all of these fields now 
use mathematics.

For more on real life uses of math, see the Dr. Math FAQ:   

- Doctors Terrel and Sarah, The Math Forum   
Associated Topics:
High School About Math
Middle School About Math

Search the Dr. Math Library:

Find items containing (put spaces between keywords):
Click only once for faster results:

[ Choose "whole words" when searching for a word like age.]

all keywords, in any order at least one, that exact phrase
parts of words whole words

Submit your own question to Dr. Math

[Privacy Policy] [Terms of Use]

Math Forum Home || Math Library || Quick Reference || Math Forum Search

Ask Dr. MathTM
© 1994- The Math Forum at NCTM. All rights reserved.