At my school exams for uni entrance I did Pure Mathematics and Applied Mathematics (along with Physics and Chemistry).

Pure Mathematics is mathematics. Applied Mathematics is concerned with actual physical things (activities) we encounter. Such as throwing a ball, playing billiards, and sailing.

Pure Mathematics in not concerned with how mathematics is applied. Whereas you can’t do applied mathematics if you have no experience in throwing balls etc.

In fact, applied [anything] is about combining the experiential knowledge we have from having experience in [something] with the pure skills (that are not concerned with any particular scenario).

So, what am I saying?

When we learn Excel we’re learning the features of Excel. Applied Excel is when we use Excel in a physical office activity that we have experience in.

To apply Excel in a real life situation we need to understand the real life situation experientially. We also need to have a thorough set of skills in using the features of Excel.

We need both in equal measure.

There’s a different between learning Excel, and learning how to do things we need to do … with Excel.

The first we can learn from books.

The second we can only learn on the job.

An illustration

A hammer is a tool. A power drill is a tool. An crane is a tool. You can learn everything there is about these tools. You can become expert at them.

Building a house is different. To build a house we need plans drawn up by an architect. Engineers to do the electrics and amenities. A foundation to be laid that’s appropriate for the building.

Tools play a big part in the building of a house. We can’t build one without tools. But operating the tools is not the same as building the house.

In our illustration (analogy) tools are Excel, Access, Power BI etc. The solution we’re building is the house.

Do not confuse the two.

Hiran de Silva

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