If you are a math teacher, this has probably happened to you . . . Someone you know has come across a problem involving math and they ask you for the solution because, hey, a math teacher must know how to figure it out.
First, a little background story:
I grew up on a farm in Kansas. (So that's what me and Superman have in common.)
Over the years, my Dad's specialty has been modifying the equipment he uses to make it more efficient, user-friendly, and/or comfortable for the farmer. Several manufacturers have visited our family farm and utilized his ideas in their designs. I am proud of him, if you can tell.
On the fourth of July, after grilled hamburgers and before the small town fireworks show, my 73-year-old Dad pulled out a yellow notepad and sketched this:
He has been working on a piece of planting equipment, and he needed to know the length of x in order to form interior angles of 11 degrees and 6 degrees. It is a pretty simple right triangle trig calculation, but he didn't remember how to do it. I figured it out for him and we discussed the feasibility of my answer (x was smaller than he expected).
Since then I have been holding onto this sketch. It has me thinking about other times that I have been asked these types of questions . . . A former student building a garage with his Dad, another farmer calculating a complex feed ratio for her cow herd, and others.
It seems like these should be some of the best problems to put in front of our students because they are from non-mathematicians, unintentionally encountering math as a part of daily life. This, for lack of a better phrase, is "real life math".
I'll put this sketch in a folder and start collecting other questions as non-mathy people corner me for answers. But I am afraid my collection is not going to grow very quickly. And even if it did, the scenarios from the rural community in which I live are limited. I am always looking for ways to expand my students' perspectives.
I'd love to have help here. What math have your non-mathy friends asked you to solve?