Date: 07/17/2002 at 23:33:01 From: Navraj Singh Subject: Purposes of Mathematical models Dear Sir, I'm taking part in the 2002 National Mu Alpha Theta Convention which is going to be held at Starkville, Mississippi, USA. One of the rounds of the convention is called Chalk Talk where students have to talk about a topic related to Math. For my division, the topic is 'Purposes of Mathematical Models'. I'm a little confused about what exactly they mean by mathematical models. Are they talking about literal mathematical models made out of materials, or something like the practical uses of math? Can you help me with this? If you understand my problem, or have any suggestions as to what I can do to prepare a good presentation on the topic, I'll be really thankful. Sincerely, Navraj Singh.
Date: 07/18/2002 at 09:58:14 From: Doctor Paul Subject: Re: Purposes of Mathematical models A mathematical model is not something made out of materials (like, for instance, a model airplane). Rather, a mathematical model is some sort of formula or equation that is meant to model or simulate something in the environment. Generally, the user inputs a number of variables and the mathematical model gives the user some sort of prediction about what will happen. I can think of several examples: 1. Most automobile insurance companies use mathematical models to determine your monthly payment. They will ask you questions about your age, how far you drive to work or school, how many days a week you drive to work or school, what kind of car you have, what color it is, etc. Then, based on your answers, the computer makes a judgment about how likely you are to file a claim on your insurance. The more likely the computer thinks you are to file a claim, the higher your insurance rate. Similar models are used for life insurance and home- owners insurance policies. 2. Mathematical models are used to predict the weather. A weatherman might enter information about the jetstream, the current barometric pressure, etc. Then the computer comes back with a model that shows how a particular weather system will react to the conditions entered. The weather is notoriously hard to predict, as evidenced by the frequent inaccuracies in our daily weather forcasts. But the models are getting better and research in this area is ongoing. 3. One of the simplest examples of a mathematical model would be using a 2nd degree quadratic equation to model the path that a baseball takes when it is thrown into the air. Of course, such a simulation would require the assumption that air resistance is zero. More sophisticated models (like those that simulate airplane flights) account for air resistance using techniques developed in college level physics classes. Mathematical models are used in just about every industry you'll find. Hopefully the above examples will help to clear up your confusion. You might be interested in talking to a local weatherman or calling an insurance company to find out more about their models. My guess, though, is that the person you speak to at an insurance company will know little or nothing about how the computer turns your answers to their questions into an insurance rate. I hope this helps. Please write back if you'd like to talk about this some more. - Doctor Paul, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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