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ERIC Number: EJ890402
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Mar
Pages: 6
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 13
ISSN: ISSN-0031-9120
How Do We Really Compute with Units?
Fiedler, B. H.
Physics Education, v45 n2 p167-172 Mar 2010
The methods that we teach students for computing with units of measurement are often not consistent with the practice of professionals. For professionals, the vast majority of computations with quantities of measure are performed within programs on electronic computers, for which an accounting for the units occurs only once, in the design of the program. Subsequent users of the program are given instructions to submit input quantities with a prescribed unit of measure, meaning submitting a dimensionless ratio of the quantity to a particular unit of measure. Likewise, users are also given instructions to interpret the numerical output as having prescribed units. Here we present a formal method for deriving both the computer code for the numerical computation, meaning the formula, and for deriving the instructions for submitting input and interpreting output. This formal method is analogous to the practice of labelling the axes of graphs with a ratio of a quantity to a unit, and treating the graph as an analogue computer for pure numbers. (Contains 1 figure and 2 footnotes.)
Institute of Physics Publishing. The Public Ledger Building Suite 929, 150 South Independence Mall West, Philadelphia, PA 19106. Tel: 215-627-0880; Fax: 215-627-0879; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: Teachers
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A