Math Behind Fireworks, GPS Units, and More

This week, I thought it might be helpful to take just a moment to reflect on teaching math OUTSIDE of the textbook. Since math describes the consistencies God placed and sustains all around us, we find it useful in all sorts of situations–including ones that don’t instantly make us think of math.

For example, this past July 4, our family went to see the fireworks. As I was watching the fireworks, I wondered how they timed the fireworks so perfectly. It hit me: they must use math! Sure enough, a quick Internet search later confirmed my suspicions. (If you’d like to learn more, see www.ohiorc.org/pm/math/richproblemmath.aspx?pmrid=16 for a somewhat technical description.)

On the way home from the firework display, we plugged in the GPS unit. How did the unit know where we were? Once again, it was using math! Here are two easy-to-understand resources I found that offer an overview of the math behind GPS units.

http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/travel/gps1.htm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zRlbboMvb0

My point is simply that if we take the time to explore how something works (the mechanics behind a device), we’ll likely find yet another example of math in action. Being inquisitive about everyday life will turn up lots of wonderful opportunities to show your children that math is a tool to describe consistencies in God’s creation.

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Free Videos: For All Practical Purposes

For All Practical Purposes

For All Practical PurposesFirst of all, thank you to everyone who provided feedback on the cover! It was VERY helpful. The graphic designer was able to make a few changes based on the concerns raised, making what I believe will be both a catchy and meaningful cover (I love the final design). Now it’s time to make some updates to the inside material and get it off to the printer : )

Secondly, I’d like to let you all know about a free video series that’s available on Google Videos: For All Practical Purposes. This series of 26 half-hour episodes does an excellent job presenting math’s practical uses in a fun and meaningful way. I was blessed by watching them several years ago when I was first beginning my  research, but I didn’t realize they were still available online until a website reader e-mailed me this past week with the news. (Thank you, Angela!)

A far cry from a boring classroom presentation, these videos make math both interesting and exciting through real-life examples and footage. I loved how the series made complex concepts simple, enabling the viewer to learn without even realizing it. One or two of the videos have very brief sections that discuss evolution from a non-biblical perspective, but on the whole the videos stayed clear of the topic of origins and focused on math’s practical uses. Since these videos were produced in the 1980s, a few videos feature rather archaic computers; however, the principles the videos present about math in action have not really changed.

This series is great for high-school students (or younger with assistance). One idea would be to watch a video a week as a supplement to your middle school or high school math course as a way of showing math’s usefulness in real-life situations–a usefulness that’s only possible because our consistent, faithful God holds all things together! The company that made this series has also produced a full sized high-school/college textbook by the same title. I was able to purchase one through AbeBooks (http://www.abebooks.com) for $3.99, including shipping.