• Question: have you used Pythagoras theorem yet? i'm doing it in maths and i don't get the point in it, why would we need to know what the length of the longest side of the triangle.

    Asked by exit360pen to Sam on 21 Nov 2019.
    • Photo: Sam Lawrence

      Sam Lawrence answered on 21 Nov 2019: last edited 21 Nov 2019 12:14 pm


      Good question, I used to think similarly when I was at school about different types of algebra. I would ask “What is the point of this? Is this even used in the real world?”. Sometimes it’s good to know what the real-world application is to help motivate your learning. Pythagoras’ theorem is honestly one of the most widely used geometrical theorems ever! Any architect or engineer will use this theorem on a daily basis. Any building or piece of technology will most likely be designed with the help of Pythagoras’ theorem. In physics we use force diagrams which are often represented using right-angled triangles. The length of each side of a triangle can represent the magnitude of a force. If you know two of the forces, Pythagoras can help us work out the third. This can help you calculate how far someone can throw a ball given it’s initial forces, or how much g-force someone will experience on a looping roller coaster or even what trajectory a rocket should be launched at into space. In astronomy, we can calculate how far distant objects are by a process known as ‘parallax’. This technique can often involve the Pythagorean theorem. Learning a relatively abstract concept in maths can seem pointless, however, after some experience you can often see how it is applied in a range of different contexts!

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