Skip to main content
Logo image

Modeling, Functions, and Graphs

Chapter 1 Functions and Their Graphs

Sunrise through tree: Martin Ruegner/Getty Images
You may have heard that mathematics is the language of science. In fact, professionals in nearly every discipline take advantage of mathematical methods to analyze data, identify trends, and predict the effects of change. This process is called mathematical modeling.
A model is a simplified representation of reality that helps us understand a process or phenomenon. Because it is a simplification, a model can never be completely accurate. Instead, it should focus on those aspects of the real situation that will help us answer specific questions. Here is an example.
The world’s population is growing at different rates in different nations. Many factors, including economic and social forces, influence the birth rate. Is there a connection between birth rates and education levels?
The figure shows the birth rate plotted against the female literacy rate in 148 countries. Although the data points do not all lie precisely on a line, we see a generally decreasing trend: the higher the literacy rate, the lower the birth rate.
Plot of birth rate vs female literacy
The regression line provides a model for this trend, and a tool for analyzing the data. In this chapter we study the properties of linear models and some techniques for fitting a linear model to data.