*** 20th Anniversary: 2003 to 2023 ***

Reality check

by stu

Precision Mathematics

Precision Mathematics

So many people do not "think" about what happens to them on a day-to-day basis. Instead they just take it on faith that what someone else has told or given them is true.

Being able to quickly estimate quantities, particularly in different measurement systems, can give one a leg up in life, by enabling him or her to assess whether something makes any sense. Having a gut feeling for what order of magnitude something should be is always a good first approximation--did the car salesman just charge you too much, are you paying too much for your phone service?

Being able to convert units in the metric system has application in science as well as everyday life, and being able to understand metric prefixes leads to both estimating fundamental quantities and orders of magnitude. You can quickly figure out if it makes sense to drive versus fly to a city that is 500 kilometers away. You can impress friends, family, and co-workers with "intuition" (actually rounding conversion factors and using order-of-magnitude estimates) about how much damage might occur if they accidentally drop their phone from waist level or down three flights (12 meters) of stairs.

Math in general and rough estimates in various measurement units in particular can help quickly assess the world around and give a reality check when interpreting why something happens or whether it is possible and accurate.

Barry's Response - As you so adroitly point out, we use math in everyday life much more that we may realize. Thanks for your insights and your reality check, Stu.

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