Math Problems from Professionals for Educators?

After responding to this post I started wondering about some sort of project that would connect educators to the workplace and solicit applied math problems.

Most education texts have “simulated” work problems, but what I am meaning here is finding people who are willing to write up a genuine situation they were facing, with all the real numbers intact, and how they solved it with mathematics.

Let me be clear: this would mean absolutely no imaginary situations. There would be no “faking it” with such a project. The only difference here with actuality is that the problem might not be solving every part of a dilemma; perhaps the whole of a problem requires multivariate calculus, but one particular part uses only simple algebra, so that’s the part that gets written about.

One obstacle to this is clauses regarding nondisclosure of company secrets. The networking likely would have to connect to both bosses and employees to get the proper permissions to write up the problems.


4 Responses

  1. It’s hard to find problems that are neither unrealistic nor too complicated for the classroom. But if you want to start such a collection, I could contribute a few problems that have come up at work.

  2. Thank you for the offer! I still haven’t decided if this would be some sort of wiki or something else.

  3. The real world is awfully messy. I mean, if at all but the most advanced high school level we still ignore friction and air resistance….

    Have you ever tried to let kids organize an event? Where they just had to look at fixed costs, costs per head, and the amount the school would contribute?

    Too hard for many! And that can be done without algebra.

    My recommendation: take the skills, learn them in the abstract, master them in the abstract, then see if reapplication is possible.

    But, if you insist, try this: Grab a right trapezoidal piece of land, maybe 80′, 100′, 60′, 80′, with the 100′ side ending in two right angles, and stripe it for maximum parking. Let them account for the same mix of vehicles as are currently on the road in your area. Don’t forget width, depth, turning radius, and entry/exit. Could go for a rectangle if a trapezoid is too hard.

    I had really rotten luck with the parking lot a few years back.


  4. Keep in mind I’m not endorsing a teaching philosophy here, I’m just looking for problems that are more convincing to students than the usual toss-ins in algebra textbooks.

    Your parking lot situation is invented (although it is pretty good!). When I say no hypothetical situations I mean that the question should be written by someone who has actual experience striping a parking lot, and can refer to a genuine location where they had to solve the problem in question.

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