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Name: Shamika
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Date: 6/12/2004

Does architects,engineers, and stock brokers use algebra?

Architects, engineers, stock brokers (and let's not forget scientists) use algebra in so many ways and so frequently that they/we don't even stop the think about it (I know that is difficult for a student in Algebra I to believe that, but it's true.). Here are a couple of examples: Solving most any formula for area, volume, length. If the length of a rectangle is six times the width and the area is 37 square meters, what is the length and width? If a stock broker earns 5% per share for selling stock A and 3.5% for buying stock B and a customer wants to sell 100 shares of stock A and buy 250 shares of stock B, how much will the stock broker make on the transaction?

Vince Calder


Algebra is a form of mathematics that allows you to work with unknowns. If you do not know what a number is, arithmetic does not allow you to use it in calculations. Algebra has variables. Variables are labels for numbers and measurements you do not yet know. Algebra lets you use these variables in equations and formulas. You can then use these equations to find out things like how two numbers relate to each other, perhaps which one is larger, without ever actually knowing what they are. Another common thing that professional people need is cost.

An architect may not yet know how tall a bridge must be. He can find the cost of the bridge as a function of height. He can determine many things in terms of whatever the height will be. This will in turn tell those building the bridge what the limits on height are in terms of these other things. This prevents the bridge from being too high or too low. An engineer may need to know how important measurements will be to the results of their work. If algebra shows that a unknown certain quantity does not actually affect the results, then the engineer does not need to find a way to measure it. A stock broker may need to know how the price of one stock will affect the price of another. Such relations may tell him which he should buy first, or whether he should wait another week before buying the stocks.

Much of the learning one does in such professions is based on relationships between various quantities. A relationship in physics is:
Distance traveled=(initial velocity)x(trip time)
+(1/2)x(acceleration)x(trip time)^2 Remembering such a relation can be quite confusing. Writing it down is truly a pain. Algebra allows for a short hand relation, sometimes called a formula:
Formulas make taking notes and using relationships much quicker and easier, with far fewer mistakes. Learn algebra well.

Dr. Ken Mellendorf
Physics Professor
Illinois Central College

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