Math CentralQuandaries & Queries


Question from Lacey, a student:

My algebra 2 class is researching graphing and slope and we would like to know how we use graphing and slope in everyday life. So if you could get back to me with some real world examples i would really appreciate it. Thanks for your help!

Hi Lacey,

Slope is a measure of steepness. Some real life examples of slope include:

  • in building roads one must figure out how steep the road will be

  • skiers/snowboarders need to consider the slopes of hills in order to judge the dangers, speeds, etc

  • when constructing wheelchair ramps, slope is a major consideration

  • when building stairs, one must consider the slope of them so they are not too steep to walk on

  • in art, slopes of the lines drawn must be considered to decide what would be the most aesthetically pleasing to the eye


Hi Lacey,

I have a couple more examples.

  • Sara mentioned road building. There are actually two ways slope is used here. There is the slope that measures how steep the road is. Sometimes people refer to this as the grade and express it as a percent. A 5% grade means a slope of 0.05, that is the rise is 5% of the run. Also roads have a crown in the middle, that is the centre of the road is higher than the shoulder. This is so that rain water will run off into the ditch or gutter. Most municapilities have specifications on how large this slope must be.

  • If you are going to have new shingles put on your house the contractor will want to know the slope of the roof. They will probably call it the pitch of the roof. Different slopes require different kinds of shingles.


Hi Lacey. Here's one. Let's say you have some steps in front of your building and you need to install a wheelchair ramp. The height above level ground of the stairs is 1.5 meters. The maximum slope that someone in a wheelchair can comfortably climb is 1:12 (1/12). You can use graphing and slope to determine how long your wheelchair ramp has to be in order to be within the building code.

Stephen La Rocque>


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