What you need to know

Click on the following for definitions of the key terms you need to know:
| model | simulation | model vs simulation | feedback loop


A model is a simplified representation of a certain point in time or space that can help to understand the real situation.

A model:
  • A model is a set of relationships
  • representation/description of reality
  • using a set of variables and relationships
  • a physical representation of a system/process/entity
  • abstraction/set of ideas to represent a system.


A simulation is a system that emulates (copies), by computer, real mechanical or natural systems and then outputs the predicted results of real world conditions. Mathematical models that describe these conditions are used to develop simulation programs.

A Simulation:
  • simulation is a representation of reality/imitation of a real situation
  • application/use of a model to determine the output
  • pretending to have a real situation

Car crash simulation


model vs simulation

A simluation is computer software, it is the technique of trying artificially to represent the real world; it is based on a mathematical model. An example of a computer simulation would be a flight simulator where pilots are learning how to fly a plane. An example of a model would be a financial model such as using a spreadsheet to calculate the interest owed to a bank or a budget for a party. You use a model to create output at any one point in time - and you can change values to see how the output would change. A simulation would present to imitate the real situation and requires feedback (input) in order to work. So a simulation requires: the mathematical model and feeback (input).

feedback loop

In a computer simulation, the user and the computer respond to data from each other.
Example (from Beekman, Tomorrow's Technology and You, Ninth Edition): when an engineer would like to test a new computer model of a new plane, the "pilot" controls the plane. The plane adjusts just like as a real plane. The pilot will respond to different situations in the simulation.