Math is a harsh mistress

Hmm, second work post in as many days.  Bad habit.

Anyway.  This might be a bit mean-spirited, and I’ll apologize for that in advance.  I had an annoying day and my normal good spirits aren’t what they normally are.

At any rate…

I was chatting with a co-worker today when another person walked up and asked us if we could help with a math problem.

They have a square gazebo with posts 9 feet apart, measured from the inside edge of one post to the inside edge of the next, like so:

math1

And they want to buy a pool to put under it, and they don’t mind if it hangs out the sides.  It will be a vinyl pool, so it can be folded up a bit to get between the posts.  Their one criteria is that it can’t touch any of the posts.

So, what they want is something like this:

math2

It actually fell to the co-worker I’d been chatting with to come up with the quickest way to solve this one.  He pointed out that we could think of three of the posts as the corners of a triangle, and solve for the hypotenuse as follows:

math3

And so, we proudly presented the petitioner with our answer: They could have a pool 12 feet in diameter and have a good three or four inches between the wall of the pool and the posts.

And the person who had asked us to do math looked at our diagram, and reflected upon it for a moment, and then spake thusly:

“Thanks, but I really wanted to get a 14 foot pool.  Do you think that would fit?”

There’s really no helping some people.

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