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These graphs are used as a visual aid, usually to show a relationship between whatever X is and whatever Y is. When we deal with numbers alone, sometimes we miss patterns. By putting the information on a coordinate graph, the picture is clearer. Graphs like these appear as descriptions or trends over time, like how an investment has increased or decreased, or the growth of plants with different fertilizers. Any time two things can be related (so that a change in one means a change in the other) a coordinate graph can draw a helpful picture of what's happening.
A gardener wants to know how much plant food to use on her tomatoes. She tries different amounts and measures how many pounds of tomatoes she gets with each amount of fertilizer. After gathering all these numbers, she puts the information on a coordinate graph to see if there is a pattern. Her graph looks like this: She puts a point on the graph for each time she changes the amount of fertilizer (X) and how many pounds of tomatoes she gets (Y). Finally, in the second coordinate graph, she draws lines connecting the points. This final picture makes it obvious that she gets more tomatoes when she uses more fertilizer, but only up to a point - where the line is highest. Adding more fertilizer after that actually lowers the amount of tomatoes.
RenÉ Descartes (pronounced day-kart) is credited with developing the Cartesian coordinate system, another name for coordinate graphing. Descartes was an amazing genius who lived in the 17th century. Besides being a mathematician, he was also a philosopher, a scientist and a writer. You may already know one of his quotes: “I think, therefore I am.”
The GPS (Global Positioning System) that we find in cars is based on coordinate graphing. If an imaginary grid is drawn around the entire earth, each point (or location) on the earth can then be expressed as an X and Y coordinate. With GPS, these are called latitude and longitude, but the idea is exactly the same. By knowing where you are on this global grid, the distance and direction to anywhere else can be calculated. This is how GPS figures out what to tell you. |

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