Math is useless July 5, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in math, physics, Uncategorized, younger son.
Tags: chemistry, fireworks, math, physics, younger son
A lot of kids later become adults who think that math is a useless field of study. Why would I need to know that?! I’ve come across a lot of math books that are trying really hard to express how one can use math in order to motivate the learner by connecting it to an application as well as make it more interesting. Connect math to the ‘real world’ is not something that comes easily to most people.
Independence Day motivated a lot of discussion with the younger son about fireworks. While driving to our pyrotechnic fix last night, the younger son started asking what he would need to study in order to make fireworks. Mike and I both said, “Chemistry.” We both were assuming you need to know a lot about which chemicals to add to make particular colors. I guess it didn’t help that I’d seen this image earlier in the day:
We were both surprised when the younger boy said, “And I’d need to know math, too!” We agreed. And then he continued:
You can calculate how much of each chemical you need, how high it will go (a bigger explosion should be farther away), how fast it will go, how long it will take to before the explosion happens, how hot it will get…
He elaborated on each point and ended up spending somewhere between five and ten minutes telling us all the ways one could use math in making fireworks. I was completely stunned. There is this huge difficulty in getting a lot of people to understand that you can quantify and predict (through physics) so many things we take for granted. Yet, here is a kid who hasn’t even reached an age in the double digits who seems to understand that all of these things can have some sort of number associated with them and that they behave in ways that can be predicted by mathematical equations. Mike and I both sat there with our mouths hanging open, shocked at what we were hearing.
However, as soon as the fireworks came out of the box, the little kid in all of us came out and just wanted to go blow things up.