Math CentralQuandaries & Queries


Question from Richard, a student:

A marathon runner runs 6 miles south and then 8 miles east. How far is the runner from the starting point?


The question assumes that the runner heads 'due' South and 'due' East, which means that when he/she turns to run East they make a right angle. Therefore, the runner's path makes a right angle triangle where the lengths of the legs are 6 and 8 miles respectively. The distance that the runner is from the start is the length of the hypotenuse of the triangle, which we can find using the Pythagorean Theorem.


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