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Math Help - Travelled vs Displacement

  1. #1
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    Travelled vs Displacement

    At a recent mathematics competition, the following problem was presented:

    "If Steve travels three miles due west and then four miles due north, how far has he travelled from his original position?"

    The answer given as correct was "five miles". I disagreed strongly and suggested they also take "7 miles" as a correct response.

    The intent is clear enough, but the wording is not.
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    Re: Travelled vs Displacement

    This is what happens when problem authors take a math perspective instead of a physics one.

    I see the same thing with problems dealing with velocity and speed.
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    Re: Travelled vs Displacement

    TKHunny, I disagree. If the problem had said "How far has he travelled" then I could see "7 miles" as the correct answer. But the problem specifically says "How far has he travelled from his original position" (emphasis mine). He is now 5 miles from his original position so he has travelled 5 miles from his original postition.

    (And I don't see how that has anything to do with "physics" or "math" perspectives.)
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    Re: Travelled vs Displacement

    Quote Originally Posted by HallsofIvy View Post
    TKHunny, I disagree. If the problem had said "How far has he travelled" then I could see "7 miles" as the correct answer. But the problem specifically says "How far has he travelled from his original position" (emphasis mine). He is now 5 miles from his original position so he has travelled 5 miles from his original postition.

    (And I don't see how that has anything to do with "physics" or "math" perspectives.)
    it would have been clear if the word "displacement" (a physics term) was used in the question instead of the words "how far"
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