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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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2 thoughts on “Math Behind Fireworks, GPS Units, and More

  1. Hi! I like this article, I just created a math blog simular to this (Like 3 days ago) and I wanted to make an article in the math behind fireworks, (since 4th of july is coming up) thanks, you gave me a source that I can use for the article! It would be an honor if you could check out my blog too!

    gotspin.net/blog

    1. Glad you found it helpful! I checked out your blog, and like the other website link you found about math in fireworks as well: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/science/2011/07/03/the-nerds-of-boom.html

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