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What Knitting Can Teach You About Math

via Smithsonian

One crux of mathematical content is the equation, and crucial to this is the equal sign. An equation like x = 5 tells us that the dreaded x, which represents some quantity, has the same value as 5. The number 5 and the value of x must be exactly the same.

A typical equal sign is very strict. Any small deviation from “exactly” means that two things are not equal. However, there are many times in life where two quantities are not exactly the same, but are essentially the same by some meaningful criteria.

Imagine, for example, that you have two square pillows. The first is red on top, yellow on the right, green on bottom and blue on the left. The second is yellow on the top, green on the right, blue on bottom, and red on the left.

The pillows aren’t exactly the same. One has a red top, while one has a yellow top. But they’re certainly similar. In fact, they would be exactly the same if you turned the pillow with the red top once counterclockwise.

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