Length or Width?Date: 12/02/2003 at 21:08:48 From: Kelsey Subject: Length and width Can you please explain the difference between height, length, width and depth? For example, if you were measuring a door, what would you label each measurment? Is it always the same for each thing? For instance my brother says the longest measurement is length, but that is not the way my teacher explained it. My parents say depth and my teacher says width. Date: 12/02/2003 at 22:29:03 From: Doctor Ian Subject: Re: Length and width Hi Kelsey, This might not be what you want to hear, but in the real world, those names are assigned somewhat arbitrarily. Usually 'height' means vertical distance... but if you turn something on its side, you might still use 'height' to refer to the dimension that _would_ be up in the normal orientation. (For example, if your height is 5 1/2 feet, and you lie down, we would still say your height is 5 1/2 feet.) If you're looking at something from the front, you'd probably label the dimensions this way: +---------------+ / /| / / + / / / h / / / t / / / p +---------------+ / e height | |/ d +---------------+ width But what if it's a swimming pool? Then I'd label it +---------------+ / /| / / + / / / h / / / t / / / g / / / n +---------------+ / e depth | |/ l +---------------+ width because this use of 'depth' seems more natural. (When we ask "How deep is your pool?", we mean in the vertical direction.) Also, I would probably label it this way if it's just an open box, for much the same reason. (If I'm going to stack things in the box, I'll stack them to some 'depth.') If I were looking at a door, use 'height' or 'length' to label the vertical dimension (usually, but not necessarily, the largest dimension--some garage or stable doors are wider than they are tall), 'width' to label the horizontal dimension, and 'depth' to label the dimension that I'm looking along (the one that goes from me through the door). But as I said, these are arbitrary. One question you might ask yourself is: What happens if you switch the names around? The answer is: Nothing at all. The object stays the same, and all the same formulas still work. Since it makes no difference what you call them, there's no reason to get hung up about the names, is there? Does this help? - Doctor Ian, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/ Date: 12/02/2003 at 22:33:03 From: Doctor Peterson Subject: Re: Length and width Hi, Kelsey. You can find a discussion (far too long!) of all these words here: What is Length in a Rectangle? http://mathforum.org/library/drmath/view/57801.html I would measure the height vertically and the width horizontally, in the case of a door. The thickness of the door might be called its depth, but "thickness" would be clearer in this case. For a door, since the height is the longest dimension, I can't imagine calling that the width or depth! Was that for something other than a door? In general we use "length" for the longest dimension, but as in our example, sometimes it's not the relative length that matters, but the orientation (horizontal or vertical). But this is really an English question, rather than math. I would rather use a language that didn't force us to twist words around as we have to here; but other languages probably have different issues. If you have any further questions, feel free to write back. - Doctor Peterson, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/ |
Search the Dr. Math Library: |
[Privacy Policy] [Terms of Use]
Ask Dr. Math^{TM}
© 1994-2015 The Math Forum
http://mathforum.org/dr.math/