Learning - Dimensional Anaylsis

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Sophomore year of high school I took chemistry.  Most students took biology but the thought of that class was just so awful that I thought I coud skip it.  I eventually took biology as a senior, but that is a different story.  In chemistry we learned a skill for solving problems that my teacher called “Dimensional Analysis”.  Chemists are always using data and facts to manipulate formulas to better suit the needs for an experiment.  Manipulating each label or “dimension” was a pretty straight forward mathematical process of dividing the equation by that dimension and multiplying by another in a related fact.  You can see two examples I worked out below.  The first is one that I had to figure out the other day in the office; that is a real calculation.  On the top of the sheet I ask the question, “How many development stories can I fund with my team if I were to devote $500k in capital?”   The second is more straight forward, “How fast in meters per second is 75 MPH?”

These are not hard problems and I think most people could work through these mathematical solutions in other ways. The beauty of Dimensional Analysis is that it works for anything.  I never realized that when I was learning the technique in HS, but I use it all the time now.  For many years I had forgotten this approach entirely.   I didn’t really ‘get it’ until my 20’s when I started using the method, almost by accident, when doing house projects.  What made it sink in was using this method as I was building a wall and had to do calcs on a 2X4.

Dimensional Analysis is a skill that could be taught as part of Mission Prep, which Agents could leverage as they negotiate obstacles that require converting measurements to get to the right solution.  It’s a simple skill that could be ingrained through real-time operational experience, and one that will benefit students throughout their lives, I am living proof of that.