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Learning Math Formulas

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

Dear Dr. Math,

Why are math formulas important?


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.

I hope this helps. Write back if you'd like to talk about this some 
more, or if you have any other questions.

- Doctor Ian, The Math Forum   
Associated Topics:
High School About Math
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