Real World Maths: Surds and all that jazz …

November 23, 2020

Eddie Woo is an Aussie Maths teacher who runs his own Youtube Channel. So popular is this channel in October 2015, Woo won the NSW Premier’s Prize for Innovation in Science and Mathematics. This youtube clip won’t tell you where you will use surds, but it does something magical.

It compares surds to different kinds of music to help students understand why mathematicians go crazy over the concept of surds. This clip tells why maths is soooooo special. There is no guesswork or fake information in this maths. Maths must be accurate. And surds demonstrate this point. (Look for the 5 min mark)

Will you use surds in real life?

Maybe. Probably, not. But surds are used in mathematical programs that demand accuracy. eg. engineering skyscrapers, building satellite dishes, and even in video games. But you won’t see them. Like so much mathematics surds will be hidden in some algorithm.

Here are two Examples:

1. The Golden Ratio:

Often written a 1:1.61 the Golden Ratio or Fibonacci Sequence appears in art and nature and has an aesthetic appeal to the eye, but the accurate ratio is:

2. The Quadratic Function

Satellite dishes, headlights, torches, and bridges all designed using the parabolic arc. The parabola is defined by the quadratic function and sometimes solving for x produces an irrational no. namely a surd. Rounding off can introduce inaccuracies that can become more dramatic when scaled up to the sie of, say, a bridge. 

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