Speaking of math…

Last night I was helping Taylor with his math, Algebra 1. The worksheet was entitled “Real Life Applications” and had a blurb at the top extolling the practical uses of the intersection point of two lines.

The sheet had three story problems, all with the same topic.

“Imagine you are walking in the woods along the line 5x + 10y= 35. There are bears (or geese, or squirrels) ahead in the forest, walking (flying) along the line 3y + 4x= 28. Will your path cross the path of the bears (animals?)?”*

First let me say, I love algebra. I was thrilled to solve each equation for the y coordinates, set the two equations equal to one another, solve for x, and plug that x in to get the actual y value, all the while praying this was the right method!

Lesson to son: bring home your textbook even when “it’s just a worksheet.” (2nd lesson, maybe it would be a good idea to pay attention in class so you will know how to do your homework!)

I enjoy story problems, and, yes, he would cross paths with the bears, the squirrels were on the same line, so he’d only see them if they were walking towards each other, and the geese would not fly over his head.

But how is this a real life application? I’m not a hiking expert, but I doubt that bears walk along a straight line. Or that, in planning a hiking route, one could predict that the geese would be at a slope of 3/5th’s….

*Sorry, I don’t have the worksheet with me, so these aren’t the actual equations, incase anyone out there is checking my math!


10 Responses to “Speaking of math…”

  1. mortonmalaise Says:

    Y=0 and X=7, right? There’s no way I would’ve remembered how to do that without the reminder. I would’ve been drawing graphs and figuring out slope and Googling the quadratic formula.

  2. katearch1978 Says:

    Wow…Math left you resorting to praying…:)

  3. Michael Says:

    It’s not a “real life application” but a form of entertainment. Some years back it was decided kids might be more interested in learning if it were entertaining. This attitude has slowly evolved into modern teaching methods that include a lot of entertainment in the guise of education. Playing dress up, making posters and models, etc. Math just isn’t an easy subject to make entertaining. My generation got the old train question in one form or another with points A, B, and C. Not than any of us would have to worry about when our trains would crash together … because the train system in our area went out of business. Probably from fuzzy math.

  4. jenjw4 Says:

    I was a math major, long ago, so I think I had an extra dose of most of the math my son is doing in 8th grade. I think by the time he reaches sophmore year of high school I’ll be totally lost…

    Katie-yep, praying to Pythagoras!

    Michael, I’m a little crazy and actually like story problems! The bears walking on a line though, that seems a bit much! (When I’m driving I make up little story problems to do in my head, “I have 24 miles left to drive, if I drive the first 12 at 55 mph, and the last 12 at 40, what time will I get home?)

  5. mortonmalaise Says:


  6. Michael Says:

    All practical math is a story problem in life. Where the education system has messed up is in trying to make it an entertaining story problem. So when the kids have a real problem to solve (that probably isn’t entertaining) it suddenly becomes “math” to them and they decide they can’t do it. Teaching real math is dry as toast … but when it comes time to balance the checkbook the student knows how if he /she were taught how math works to balance a checkbook instead of how many apples are left in the basket or how much wood would a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood.

  7. Rixblix Says:

    Actually, as a teacher, I can tell you that there are reasons why math is taught the way it is. Current standardized testing requires that students demonstrate the “why” of their answer. This is called metacognition. Students can’t simply be taught rote memorization and formulas because the testing that they MUST undergo requires that they learn WHY long division works or WHY counting back change works the way it does. Just as teaching reading has gone through countless “fads” (phonics, whole language, etc…) so too is Math. In reality, it’s pretty tough to teach a “Math LD” kid how to embrace it and look ahead to it’s applications in modern life.

    I may be a bit biased, though, because I’m one of those Math LD grown up kids. I can count back change (because I worked at the Dairy Ripple one summer) but I rely on a calculator quite a bit.

  8. Jimi Says:

    Just run from the bears. Zig zag. They can catch you if they want, but usually you’re too much an effort to catch. 🙂

  9. HollowSquirrel Says:

    Let’s hope the bears go for the squirrels before they go for you, the hikers. You’re totally right, though…how can he correctly answer these questions when they’re so flawed?

  10. diane vespa Says:

    I absolutely DREAD the first time one of my kids asks me to help them solve a math problem. I guess that is when I will have to come clean with them that I NEVER paid attention in school. My pat answer will be “wait until Daddy gets home….”.

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