Polar Bear Math


Normal graph paper is covered with same-sized squares, and when you use it in math you usually choose one of the horizontal lines to be the x-axis and one of the vertical lines to be the y-axis. After drawing scales on the x- and y-axes you can locate any point on the graph paper by its x and y coordinates. The coordinates are usually written as (x-coordinate, y-coordinate).

Here's an example showing a triangle with coordinates (-2, 1), (1, 3) and (3, -3).

Graph showing triangle in rectangular coordinates

Drawing a Map

You probably live in a city that primarily has rectangular blocks. The streets go east/west and north/south. This makes it pretty easy for you to draw a map of your town on a regular piece of graph paper. The main east/west street goes on the x-axis with east at the right end of the axis, and the main north/south street goes on the y-axis with north at the top.

Starting at the center of town, it's easy to say, "go two blocks west and one block north and you'll find the west-most corner of Triangle Park."

Now, let's move the town to the North Pole. Tell the polar bear that's sitting at the center of town how to get to the corners of Triangle Park. "Go west, uh..." Do you see the problem? From the North Pole, there is no direction but south!

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The Polar Bear's Map
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