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### Learning Math Formulas

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Date: 02/22/2001 at 12:41:40
From: Jessie Smith
Subject: Math formulas

Dear Dr. Math,

Why are math formulas important?

From,
Jessie
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Date: 02/22/2001 at 15:58:47
From: Doctor Ian
Subject: Re: Math formulas

Hi Jessie,

If you want to know why it's important for people to figure them out
in the first place, it's because once you've got a formula to describe
something in the world, you can control it, or at least predict what's
going to happen.

For example, if you can find a formula to describe the way that
electrons move around in copper wire, you can use that knowledge to
design electric lights, and appliances, and CD players, and so on.

Once you have a formula to describe the way that gasoline burns in
oxygen, you can use that knowledge to design motors, and electric
generators, and so on.

Once you have a formula to describe the cost of producing and selling
an arbitrary number of waxahachies, you can decide how much to charge
for them in order to make a profit; and you can predict, for any
number of projected sales, how much money you'll make.

And so on, and so on, and so on.

Commercial pilots do most of their training in flight simulators,
because if they make a mistake, they don't crash a real plane, or kill
any real people.

Well, equations are like flight simulators. They let you try out all
kinds of weird ideas without actually risking lives or property.

If you want to know why it's important for people to remember
formulas, it's purely to save time. For example, you don't _have_ to
remember your phone number. You could write it down on a piece of
paper and keep it in your pocket for whenever you want to look it
up... but if you use it a lot, that would waste a lot of time, so it's
easier to just remember it. Math formulas are the same way. If you're
going to be working with right triangles a lot, it just takes too long
to look up the Pythagorean theorem every time you want to use it -
which, in some situations, will be about every 15 seconds. It's easier
just to remember it.

more, or if you have any other questions.

- Doctor Ian, The Math Forum
http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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