Math in the Real World: Pythagorean Theorem

When are we ever going to use a2 + b2 = c2 in the real world? I asked this question in math class. I am unsure if I ever received an answer until I began building my off grid paradise. Recently, I plotted the footprint for my shop’s foundation. My math teacher should have handed me 4 stakes, a hammer, 3 tape measures and sent me to the high school field with the Pythagorean Theorem and told me to plot a perfect rectangle before I could ever receive my diploma. Once I could make the connection that our entire civilization was built on mathematics, I would have had more respect for the Pythagorean Theorem.

However, not every math student will care how to make a perfect rectangle in the school’s field. Some would just hire someone else to do their homework when it came to building their shop’s footprint, and to be honest if I had the money, I would have too. Currently, our beautiful Northern Idaho paradise has been invaded by a mass migration of people looking for refuge from the urban life. We were part of that migratory wave ourselves back in 2010. Now, with the Internet and the ability to work from home, many people are abandoning the suburbs and looking for homes in the rural communities. Cement companies in the area find themselves in a glut of orders for home footprints as the need for housing has increased. Trying to find a place in the pace of building has become increasingly challenging as small jobs, like mine, tend to take a back seat to the mass orders. Some companies will even charge more to make it worth their while to shuffle work around small jobs like mine. Therefore, we have chosen to do the majority of the work ourselves to save money. Unfortunately, my wife and I, being the two of us in our late 40’s are slower than we were when we built our home in our late thirties.

When building this small 40’ x 50’ concrete pad, I realized how the Egyptians thousands of years ago were able to align the Pyramid of Giza in a near perfect alignment to true north on the longitude and latitude of the planet. The footprint is a perfect square. The Egyptians even made the sides of the pyramid perfectly concaved to visually appear perfect with the curvature of the earth. I can’t even fathom how the Egyptians were able to pull off such an amazing architectural feat without computers or modern equipment and tools. No wonder the Pharaoh’s builders were considered magicians.

In this day and age, we rely heavily on our technology. However, if the technology were to cease working, would we have the mental capacity to repair it? Plus, much of our technology is compartmentalized. Different companies make different components to be incorporated into our modern computerized tools and appliances. Many of our tools and appliances are built with robotics that also need various components. I am not a firm believer that all our technology will shut down due to some catastrophic event. However, there could be times that components will be made so cheaply and haphazardly that much of our technology will begin to fail and as the technology fails a cascade failure could eventually occur. A new dark age may befall us.

How does this relate to high school math? Well, it just shows that in our enlightened technocracy that we truly aren’t as enlightened or knowledgeable as we think we are. 5,000 years ago architects didn’t need a computer to build perfection while I am using one to spell check this post.


3 thoughts on “Math in the Real World: Pythagorean Theorem

    • I was reading a book called, The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America, from a government whistler blower. Mathematics has been undermined in our culture since the early 1930’s. Sad. I would say the Internet is a blessing on finding solutions to many math and science problems, but so much false info is out there. It is hard to determine what is true or not if the educational foundation is weak.

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  1. Great post Mark – and you could also tell your students the trigonometric and SOH-CAH-TOA math can quickly help you figure out saw angles too. By the way – wait until you and your wife are in your young 6o’s as franics and I are, to feel the aches and pains and tiredeness setting it even more, especially gardening and canning season…. I assure you it’s so worth it though with healthy home grown organic food, lots of good exercise and the power of the sun and other elements to sustainably power us all into the future.
    On the other hand, we are so concerned about the climate crises and what the future will hold for the earth and her children. It makes us work even harder – creating community, organizing for political change and raise awarenss – socially, ecologically and not the least…. spiritual.
    We can and must do this together in our common humanity.
    Cheers – Bruce

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