Math CentralQuandaries & Queries


Question from Britta, a student:

Please, give me some complex real life situation examples where the pythagorean theory is used. It must be a grade 8 or grade 9 level of thinking as that is what is my teacher's demands.

Well, I'm sure your teacher wants you to find them yourself too. But maybe a few hints would be OK?

Think about situations where you know two sides of a right triangle

right triangle

and you want to know the third. The right angle could come about because one side next to it was the ground and the other was vertical; because one side was a distance North and the other a distance East; because they were walls of a room meeting at a corner; because you had cut or folded a corner of a sheet of paper or cloth; or for other reasons.
The theorem tells you that A2 + B2 = C2

The hypotenuse (long side) might be the length of a ladder, or pole, or whatever, that you knew, and you might be able to measure B on the ground but not A.

The theorem only holds if the angle is right; if you knew A,B,C you could check whether you had a right angle. (Look up Egyptian surveying on Google.)

Now, you make up some stories using ideas like that.

Good Hunting!

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