Essay: Algebra in Daily Life it Strange

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Algebra in Daily Life

It strange, though kind of comforting, to think of the many things in our lives that math in general and algebra specifically are so involved in. Strange because we don't often have to do the mathematical operations involved in order to do our daily tasks and go through our routine, and comforting because the concrete and unchanging nature of numbers adds some certainty to this world that can so often seem chaotic and entirely ungrounded. Even if algebra can't predict what will happen to oil prices and mortgage meltdowns, it can at lest provide us with an explanation of what's happening and how it's happening -- and maybe even why.

I will leave this kind of math to the economists and the members of the Federal Reserve board, however; I have neither the know-how nor the inclination to become involved in that mountain of numbers. Still, there are plenty of smaller ways in which numbers play a role in my every day life. One of those ways is my bicycle. I ride my bicycle almost everywhere, and several times I have had minor breakdowns on the road. These incidents have given me a basic understanding of the way my bike and its various gears move me around, and the functions of the bike and its gears can be expressed algebraically. The actual equations that describe the bike's travel would be quite complex and would require a great deal of measurement and experimentation, but the basic equations that would be needed to calculate effort, speed, and travel time for various distances in various gears can be simulated in a simple thought experiment, using simple numbers.

First, a basic description of the bike is needed. I own a twenty-one sped mountain bike, but around town I'm usually on my three-speed cruiser, and for the sake of simplicity, let's look at the equations pertaining to that bike. Terms that need defining in terms of assigning numerical value are the tire circumference (which is also the distance traveled per revolution of the tire), number of revolutions of the tire that result from each turn of the pedals, and effort… [END OF PREVIEW]

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