What’s Math Got to do with it? Student work

A few excerpts from student “Movie” papers

These are randomly chosen parts of students’ papers that I had on my computer.  They are typical  kinds of things I read in papers but by no means could ever let you know all of the amazing things I learned from my students when I read their papers for this assignment.  I do hope, however, that they will encourage you to try this assignment with your students.  Papers get better after they’ve watched several movies and written several papers.  Enjoy!


aviationJeff L:  There are many different math concepts involved with aviation.  Man physics ideas are taken into account, such as air resistance forces, gravitational potential energy from being higher in the air, and kinetic energy from motion.  Also, math goes in to determining what shapes the wings and body of the flying object will take so that the path that the air takes as it travels over the object will help force the object upward and keep it in flight.  Math would be used to measure each of these parts, in designing and building the objects, and calculating what forces act upon the object as it flies.

… One thing that I found to be the most interesting about this subject [aviation] is how easily you can get an airplane to travel at a somewhat quick pace.  I started to wonder what the fastest airplane is and how fast it has traveled before.  NASA had a project to build such a plane, called the X-43, and they got it to break the speed record recently at a speed of Mach 9.6, or almost 7,000 mph.

Roller Coasters:

RollerCoasterKelly S:  They use basic math concepts such as speed and velocity. This is important because they need to know how fast the roller coasters are going at specific times. They can calculate speed and velocity by algebra.  They also use conversions such as the one involved with the conversion of potential energy to kinetic energy. This type of conversion is important for understanding how the cars at the top of a loop with react.  Also, it involves extraneous variables, also known as stressors.  These have to observed and monitored carefully for the safety of the passengers. They want to be sure that the presence of these stressors does not affect the outcome of the independent variable. They also use modeling in conjunction with the conversions. They start by building the scale models of the large coasters before they start construction. This helps save a lot of money in resources.

…  People working in the car industry would be very concerned with this same type of math.  They would want to be able to test their cars and clock exact speeds and also want to be sure that their products are safe.  Also, people who work in NASCAR would be concerned with the same principles of clocking the speeds and positions of the cars.  They want their timing to be exact, which would make them very interested in the math.

I found it interesting that so much math went into building a roller coaster.  I never thought about how dangerous they were too.  If someone calculates one little equation wrong, that could mean that the car flies off the tracks because it was going to fast.   Also, I think it would be cool to try new ideas and come up with creative thrilling rides.

The Forester

foresterKylor S: I love to camp with my grandparents. When we go camping one of our favorite things to do is to take hikes through the trails. My grandpa is great at knowing what types of trees and plants are along the trail. I thought this movie was pretty cool about how foresters use math to manage these areas. I never really thought about that before; I guess I just thought that these areas just happened.  This forester in this movie did a good job of explaining how her job dealt with decision making and problem solving to decide which trees to leave and which trees to harvest. The planting of a certain area can be done naturally where certain trees that are left put down seeds or it can happen by design where a certain number of trees are planted realizing that some may not make it.

Geometry terms that help Tami the forester in this movie were ratio, percentage, proportion, diameter, hypothesis and conclusion.  In these cases the diameter of the tree and the tree height are used to determine which trees will be left to produce seeds.  The percentage of trees are then determined based on a hypothesis of what trees are already in the area and what percentage might not survive. This hypothesis is based on a volume per acre. The lumber off each are of land that consumes an acre is expressed as a board foot. A board foot is one inch thick by 12 inches long by 12 inches wide. Atypical logging truck that you might have passed on the interstate can typically carry 4000 board feet.  Tami explained how the ratio of the types of trees is important when planting; in the example from the movie for every 6 Ponderosa pines they planted 16 Douglas firs. Tami also explained that in burn areas they overplant because they hope to get an 85% survival rate. Tami also explained that math helps them figure that when they plant approximately 22,000 trees this works about to about 170-180 trees per acre.

…  I thought it was interesting how much math Tami and other foresters use. I think it is neat that the decisions she makes can last over a hundred years and she uses problem solving and math to help her. Different forests can have different percentages of trees and you need to know what those are and to do that you need special equipment. The stuff in her pack like a compass, bear spray, snow shoes, chainsaws, and the space blanket just aren’t the things one normally takes to work!

Water Supply

waterT. T: I chose the movie water supply,which i thought would be very interesting being that I’ve always wondered where and how tap water was available.  I would have never imagined that so much math was used in every day work. Dealing with the water supply has a constant use of math .one of the big things is volume how much water a tank can hold at a time .speed how much time it will take for the process to keep up with the supply and demand .although the job is very interesting i don’t think i would like to go into this field of work because it has a lot to do with machines. i don’t like dealing with things that are bigger than i am ,and i cant swim so the thought of being around 1.5 billion gallons of water is scary.


About napmath

I recently retired from full-time teaching. I taught students in High School math classes from Basic Math through AP Calculus. I have been into integrating technology into my classes since 1981. I am Nationally Board Certified, am the proud recipient of a Presidential Award of Excellence in Math Teaching, text book author, Golden Apple Scholar, Certified SMART Board Trainer, Regional Technology Teacher of the Year, and give workshops across the country - geometry, Common Core, mathematics, Interactive Whiteboards, and technology. I am currently working as an adjunct faculty member at Illinois Wesleyan University and authoring books for SMART Boards and Promethean Boards with Vision Technology. http://visionstechnology.com/
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One Response to What’s Math Got to do with it? Student work

  1. Pingback: What’s Math Got to do with it? – Video/Writing Assignment | napmath

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