Year after year, we review dozens of reader nominations, revisit sites from past lists, consider staff favorites, and search the far-flung corners of the web for new celebration of new year essay for a varied compilation that will prove an asset to any writer, of any genre, at any experience level. This selection represents this year's creativity-centric websites for writers. These websites fuel out-of-the-box thinking and help writers awaken their choke palahnuik and literary analysis. Be sure to check out the archives for references to innovative techniques and processes from famous thinkers like Einstein and Darwin. The countless prompts, how-tos on guided imagery and creative habits, mixed-media masterpieces, and more at Creativity Portal have sparked imaginations for more than 18 years. Boost your literary credentials by submitting your best caption for the stand-alone cartoon to this weekly *choke palahnuik and literary analysis* from The New Yorker. The top three captions advance to a public vote, and the winners will be included in a future issue of the magazine.

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We aim to contribute towards a safer and sustainable environment by essay everyone on board to actively advocate for positive climate change through both a paradigm shift and deeds. Net is the highest quality essay writing service for college students. According to the current legislation, the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act of , vocational students are those not headed for a baccalaureate degree, so they include both students expecting to work immediately after high school as well as those expecting to go to a community college.

VATEA also promoted a program, dubbed "tech-prep," that established formal articulations between secondary school and community college curricula. For an argument about how education may be organized around broad work themes can enhance learning in mathematics see Hoachlander The Goals Educate America Act, for example, established the National Skill Standards Board in to serve as a catalyst in the development of a voluntary national system of skills standards, assessments, and certifications for business and industry.

For decades our industrial society has been based on fossil fuels. In today's knowledge-based society, mathematics is the energy that drives the system. New mathematical techniques and analyses and even conceptual frameworks are continually required in economics, in finance, in materials science, in physics, in biology, in medicine. Just as all scientific and health-service careers are mathematically based, so are many others. Interaction with computers has become a part of more and more jobs, and good analytical skills enhance computer use and troubleshooting.

In addition, virtually all levels of management and many support positions in business and industry require some mathematical understanding, including an ability to read graphs and interpret other information presented visually, to use estimation effectively, and to apply mathematical reasoning.

Education in mathematics and the ability to communicate its predictions is more important than ever for moving from low-paying jobs into better-paying ones. For example, my local paper, The Times of Trenton , had a section "Focus. But precisely what mathematics should students learn in school? Mathematicians and mathematics educators have been discussing this question for decades. This essay presents some thoughts about three areas of mathematics—estimation, trigonometry, and algebra—and then some thoughts about teaching and learning.

Estimation is one of the harder skills for students to learn, even if they experience relatively little difficulty with other aspects of mathematics. Many students think of mathematics as a set of precise rules yielding exact answers and are uncomfortable with the idea of imprecise answers, especially when the degree of precision in the estimate depends on the context and is not itself given by a rule. Yet it is very important to be able to get an approximate sense of the size an answer should be, as a way to get a rough check on the accuracy of a calculation I've personally used it in stores to detect that I've been charged twice for the same item, as well as often in my own mathematical work , a feasibility estimate, or as an estimation for tips.

Trigonometry plays a significant role in the sciences and can help us understand phenomena in everyday life. Often introduced as a study of triangle measurement, trigonometry may be used for surveying and for determining heights of trees, but its utility extends vastly beyond these triangular applications. Students can experience the power of mathematics by using sine and cosine to model periodic phenomena such as going around and around a circle, going in and out with tides, monitoring temperature or smog components changing on a hour cycle, or the cycling of predator-prey populations.

No educator argues the importance of algebra for students aiming for mathematically-based careers because of the foundation it provides for the more specialized education they will need later. Yet, algebra is also important for those students who do not currently aspire to mathematics-based careers, in part because a lack of algebraic skills puts an upper bound on the types of careers to which a student can aspire.

Former civil rights leader Robert Moses makes a good case for every student learning algebra, as a means of empowering students and providing goals, skills, and opportunities. The same idea was applied to learning calculus in the movie Stand and Deliver.

How, then, can we help all students learn algebra? For me personally, the impetus to learn algebra was at least in part to learn methods of solution for puzzles. Suppose you have 39 jars on three shelves. There are twice as many jars on the second shelf as the first, and four more jars on the third shelf than on the second shelf.

How many jars are there on each shelf? Such problems are not important by themselves, but if they show the students the power of an idea by enabling them to solve puzzles that they'd like to solve, then they have value. We can't expect such problems to interest all students. How then can we reach more students? One of the common tools in business and industry for investigating mathematical issues is the spreadsheet, which is closely related to algebra. Writing a rule to combine the elements of certain cells to produce the quantity that goes into another cell is doing algebra, although the variables names are cell names rather than x or y.

Therefore, setting up spreadsheet analyses requires some of the thinking that algebra requires. By exploring mathematics via tasks which come from workplace and everyday settings, and with the aid of common tools like spreadsheets, students are more likely to see the relevance of the mathematics and are more likely to learn it in ways that are personally meaningful than when it is presented abstractly and applied later only if time permits.

Thus, this essay argues that workplace and everyday tasks should be used for teaching mathematics and, in particular, for teaching algebra. It would be a mistake, however, to rely exclusively on such tasks, just as it would be a mistake to teach only spreadsheets in place of algebra. Communicating the results of an analysis is a fundamental part of any use of mathematics on a job. There is a growing emphasis in the workplace on group work and on the skills of communicating ideas to colleagues and clients.

But communicating mathematical ideas is also a powerful tool for learning, for it requires the student to sharpen often fuzzy ideas. Some of the tasks in this volume can provide the kinds of opportunities I am talking about. Another problem, with clear connections to the real world, is the following, taken from the book entitled Consider a Spherical Cow: A Course in Environmental Problem Solving , by John Harte The question posed is: How does biomagnification of a trace substance occur?

For example, how do pesticides accumulate in the food chain, becoming concentrated in predators such as condors? Specifically, identify the critical ecological and chemical parameters determining bioconcentrations in a food chain, and in terms of these parameters, derive a formula for the concentration of a trace substance in each link of a food chain.

This task can be undertaken at several different levels. The analysis in Harte's book is at a fairly high level, although it still involves only algebra as a mathematical tool. The task could be undertaken at a more simple level or, on the other hand, it could be elaborated upon as suggested by further exercises given in that book. And the students could then present the results of their analyses to each other as well as the teacher, in oral or written form. When teaching mathematics, it is easy to spend so much time and energy focusing on the procedures that the concepts receive little if any attention.

When teaching algebra, students often learn the procedures for using the quadratic formula or for solving simultaneous equations without thinking of intersections of curves and lines and without being able to apply the procedures in unfamiliar settings. The formulas and procedures are important, but are not enough. When using workplace and everyday tasks for teaching mathematics, we must avoid falling into the same trap of focusing on the procedures at the expense of the concepts.

Avoiding the trap is not easy, however, because just like many tasks in school algebra, mathematically based workplace tasks often have standard procedures that can be used without an understanding of the underlying mathematics. To change a procedure to accommodate a changing business climate, to respond to changes in the tax laws, or to apply or modify a procedure to accommodate a similar situation, however, requires an understanding of the mathematical ideas behind the procedures.

In particular, a student should be able to modify the procedures for assessing energy usage for heating as in Heating-Degree-Days, p. To prepare our students to make such modifications on their own, it is important to focus on the concepts as well as the procedures. Workplace and everyday tasks can provide opportunities for students to attach meaning to the mathematical calculations and procedures.

If a student initially solves a problem without algebra, then the thinking that went into his or her solution can help him or her make sense out of algebraic approaches that are later presented by the teacher or by other students. Such an approach is especially appropriate for teaching algebra, because our teaching of algebra needs to reach more students too often it is seen by students as meaningless symbol manipulation and because algebraic thinking is increasingly important in the workplace.

Write an equation for the following statement: "There are six times as many students as professors at this university. The authors note that some textbooks instruct students to use such translation. By analyzing transcripts of interviews with students, the authors found this approach and another faulty approach, as well. These students often drew a diagram showing six students and one professor.

Note that we often instruct students to draw diagrams when solving word problems. Such reasoning is quite sensible, though it misses the fundamental intent in the problem statement that S is to represent the number of students, not a student. Thus, two common suggestions for students—word-for-word translation and drawing a diagram—can lead to an incorrect answer to this apparently simple problem, if the students do not more deeply contemplate what the variables are intended to represent.

Clearly, then, we must encourage students to contemplate the meanings of variables. Yet, part of the power and efficiency of algebra is precisely that one can manipulate symbols independently of what they mean and then draw meaning out of the conclusions to which the symbolic manipulations lead.

Thus, stable, long-term learning of algebraic thinking requires both mastery of procedures and also deeper analytical thinking. Paradoxically, the need for sharper analytical thinking occurs alongside a decreased need for routine arithmetic calculation.

Calculators and computers make routine calculation easier to do quickly and accurately; cash registers used in fast food restaurants sometimes return change; checkout counters have bar code readers and payment takes place by credit cards or money-access cards. So it is education in mathematical thinking, in applying mathematical computation, in assessing whether an answer is reasonable, and in communicating the results that is essential.

Teaching mathematics via workplace and everyday problems is an approach that can make mathematics more meaningful for all students. It is important, however, to go beyond the specific details of a task in order to teach mathematical ideas. While this approach is particularly crucial for those students intending to pursue careers in the mathematical sciences, it will also lead to deeper mathematical understanding for all students.

Clement, J. Translation difficulties in learning mathematics. American Mathematical Monthly , 88 , Harte, J. Consider a spherical cow: A course in environmental problem solving. J EAN E. Teaching a mathematics class in which few of the students have demonstrated success is a difficult assignment. Many teachers avoid such assignments, when possible. On the one hand, high school mathematics teachers, like Bertrand Russell, might love mathematics and believe something like the following:.

Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty—a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. Russell, , p. But, on the other hand, students may not have the luxury, in their circumstances, of appreciating this beauty.

Many of them may not see themselves as thinkers because contemplation would take them away from their primary. Instead, like Jamaica Kincaid, they may be asking:. What makes the world turn against me and all who look like me? I won nothing, I survey nothing, when I ask this question, the luxury of an answer that will fill volumes does not stretch out before me.

When I ask this question, my voice is filled with despair. Kincaid, , pp. During the and school years, we a high school teacher and a university teacher educator team taught a lower track Algebra I class for 10th through 12th grade students. For our students, mathematics had become a charged subject; it carried a heavy burden of negative experiences.

Many of our students were convinced that neither they nor their peers could be successful in mathematics. Few of our students did well in other academic subjects, and few were headed on to two- or four-year colleges. But the students differed in their affiliation with the high school. Some, called ''preppies" or "jocks" by others, were active participants in the school's activities.

Others, "smokers" or "stoners," were rebelling to differing degrees against school and more broadly against society. There were strong tensions between members of these groups. Teaching in this setting gives added importance and urgency to the typical questions of curriculum and motivation common to most algebra classes. In our teaching, we explored questions such as the following:.

As a result of thinking about these questions, in our teaching we wanted to avoid being in the position of exhorting students to appreciate the beauty or utility of algebra. Our students were frankly skeptical of arguments based on. They saw few people in their community using algebra.

We had also lost faith in the power of extrinsic rewards and punishments, like failing grades. Many of our students were skeptical of the power of the high school diploma to alter fundamentally their life circumstances. We wanted students to find the mathematical objects we were discussing in the world around them and thus learn to value the perspective that this mathematics might give them on their world.

To help us in this task, we found it useful to take what we call a "relationships between quantities" approach to school algebra. In this approach, the fundamental mathematical objects of study in school algebra are functions that can be represented by inputs and outputs listed in tables or sketched or plotted on graphs, as well as calculation procedures that can be written with algebraic symbols.

In the light of previous experience, we must acknowledge the impossibility of determining, by direct measurement, most of the heights and distances we should like to know. It is this general fact which makes the science of mathematics necessary. For in renouncing the hope, in almost every case, of measuring great heights or distances directly, the human mind has had to attempt to determine them indirectly, and it is thus that philosophers were led to invent mathematics.

Quoted in Serres, , p. Using this approach to the concept of function, during the school year, we designed a year-long project for our students. The project asked pairs of students to find the mathematical objects we were studying in the workplace of a community sponsor. Students visited the sponsor's workplace four times during the year—three after-school visits and one day-long excused absence from school.

In these visits, the students came to know the workplace and learned about the sponsor's work. We then asked students to write a report describing the sponsor's workplace and answering questions about the nature of the mathematical activity embedded in the workplace. The questions are organized in Table In order to determine how the interviews could be structured and to provide students with a model, we chose to interview Sandra's husband, John Bethell, who is a coatings inspector for an engineering firm.

When asked about his job, John responded, "I argue for a living. Since most municipalities contract with the lowest bidder when a water tower needs to be painted, they will often hire an engineering firm to make sure that the contractor works according to specification.

Since the contractor has made a low bid, there are strong. In his work John does different kinds of inspections. For example, he has a magnetic instrument to check the thickness of the paint once it has been applied to the tower. When it gives a "thin" reading, contractors often question the technology.

To argue for the reading, John uses the surface area of the tank, the number of paint cans used, the volume of paint in the can, and an understanding of the percentage of this volume that evaporates to calculate the average thickness of the dry coating.

Other examples from his workplace involve the use of tables and measuring instruments of different kinds. When school started, students began working on their projects. Although many of the sponsors initially indicated that there were no mathematical dimensions to their work, students often were able to show sponsors places where the mathematics we were studying was to be found.

For example, Jackie worked with a crop and soil scientist. She was intrigued by the way in which measurement of weight is used to count seeds. First, her sponsor would weigh a test batch of seeds to generate a benchmark weight.

Then, instead of counting a large number of seeds, the scientist would weigh an amount of seeds and compute the number of seeds such a weight would contain. Rebecca worked with a carpeting contractor who, in estimating costs, read the dimensions of rectangular rooms off an architect's blueprint, multiplied to find the area of the room in square feet doing conversions where necessary , then multiplied by a cost per square foot which depended on the type of carpet to compute the cost of the carpet.

The purpose of these estimates was to prepare a bid for the architect where the bid had to be as low as possible without making the job unprofitable. Rebecca used a chart Table to explain this procedure to the class. Joe and Mick, also working in construction, found out that in laying pipes, there is a "one by one" rule of thumb. When digging a trench for the placement of the pipe, the non-parallel sides of the trapezoidal cross section must have a slope of 1 foot down for every one foot across.

This ratio guarantees that the dirt in the hole will not slide down on itself. Thus, if at the bottom of the hole, the trapezoid must have a certain width in order to fit the pipe, then on ground level the hole must be this width plus twice the depth of the hole. Knowing in advance how wide the hole must be avoids lengthy and costly trial and error. Other students found that functions were often embedded in cultural artifacts found in the workplace. For example, a student who visited a doctor's office brought in an instrument for predicting the due dates of pregnant women, as well as providing information about average fetal weight and length Figure While the complexities of organizing this sort of project should not be minimized—arranging sponsors, securing parental permission, and meeting administrators and parent concerns about the requirement of off-campus, after-school work—we remain intrigued by the potential of such projects for helping students see mathematics in the world around them.

The notions of identifying central mathematical objects for a course and then developing ways of identifying those objects in students' experience seems like an important alternative to the use of application-based materials written by developers whose lives and social worlds may be quite different from those of students. Chazen, D. Algebra for all students?

Journal of Mathematical Behavior , 15 4 , Eckert, P. Jocks and burnouts: Social categories and identity in the high school. New York: Teachers College Press. Fey, J. Concepts in algebra: A technological approach. Dedham, MA: Janson Publications. Kieran, C. Introducing algebra by mean of a technology-supported, functional approach. Bednarz et al. Kincaid, J. The autobiography of my mother. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux.

Nemirovsky, R. Mathematical narratives, modeling and algebra. Approaches to algebra , pp. Schwartz, J. Getting students to function in and with algebra. Dubinsky Eds. Serres, M. Mathematics and philosophy: What Thales saw … In J.

Bell Eds. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins. Thompson, P. Quantitative reasoning, complexity, and additive structures. Educational Studies in Mathematics , 25 , Yerushalmy, M. Seizing the opportunity to make algebra mathematically and pedagogically interesting. Romberg, E. Carpenter Eds. To assist his research in mathematics teaching and learning, he has taught algebra at the high school level. His interests include teaching mathematics by examining student ideas, using computers to support student exploration, and the potential for the history and philosophy of mathematics to inform teaching.

She has interest in mathematics reform, particularly in meeting the needs of diverse learners in algebra courses. A city is served by two different ambulance companies. City logs record the date, the time of the call, the ambulance company, and the response time for each call Table 1. Analyze these data and write a report to the City Council with supporting charts and graphs advising it on which ambulance company the operators should choose to dispatch for calls from this region.

This problem confronts the student with a realistic situation and a body of data regarding two ambulance companies' response times to emergency calls. The data the student is provided are typically "messy"—just a log of calls and response times, ordered chronologically.

The question is how to make sense of them. Finding patterns in data such as these requires a productive mixture of mathematics common sense, and intellectual detective work. It's the kind of reasoning that students should be able to do—the kind of reasoning that will pay off in the real world. In this case, a numerical analysis is not especially informative.

On average, the companies are about the same: Arrow has a mean response time of The spread of the data is also not very helpful. The ranges of their distributions are exactly the same: from 6 minutes to 19 minutes. The standard deviation of Arrow's response time is a little longer—4. Graphs of the response times Figures 1 and 2 reveal interesting features. Both companies, especially Arrow, seem to have bimodal distributions, which is to say that there are two clusters of data without much data in between.

The distributions for both companies suggest that there are some other factors at work. Might a particular driver be the problem? Might the slow response times for either company be on particular days of the week or at particular times of day? Graphs of the response time versus the time of day Figures 3 and 4 shed some light on these questions.

These graphs show that Arrow's response times were fast except between AM and AM, when they were about 9 minutes slower on average. Similarly, Metro's response times were fast except between about PM and PM, when they were about 5 minutes slower. Perhaps the locations of the companies make Arrow more susceptible to the morning rush hour and Metro more susceptible to the afternoon rush hour.

On the other hand, the employees on Arrow's morning shift or Metro's afternoon shift may not be efficient. To avoid slow responses, one could recommend to the City Council that Metro be called during the morning and that Arrow be called during the afternoon.

A little detective work into the sources of the differences between the companies may yield a better recommendation. Comparisons may be drawn between two samples in various contexts—response times for various services taxis, computer-help desks, hour hot lines at automobile manufacturers being one class among many. Depending upon the circumstances, the data may tell very different stories. Even in the situation above, if the second pair of graphs hadn't offered such clear explanations, one might have argued that although the response times for Arrow were better on average the spread was larger, thus making their "extremes" more risky.

The fundamental idea is using various analysis and representation techniques to make sense of data when the important factors are not necessarily known ahead of time. Practice "back-of-the-envelope" estimates based on rough approximations that can be derived from common sense or everyday observations. Some 50 years ago, physicist Enrico Fermi asked his students at the University of Chicago, "How many piano tuners are there in Chicago?

Thus, many people today call these kinds of questions "Fermi questions. Scientists and mathematicians use the idea of order of magnitude , usually expressed as the closest power of ten, to give a rough sense of the size of a quantity. In everyday conversation, people use a similar idea when they talk about "being in the right ballpark.

To say that these salaries differ by a factor of or 10 3 , one can say that they differ by three orders of magnitude. Such a lack of precision might seem unscientific or unmathematical, but such approximations are quite useful in determining whether a more precise measurement is feasible or necessary, what sort of action might be required, or whether the result of a calculation is "in the right ballpark.

On the other hand, determining whether 5, or 6, is a better estimate is not necessary, as the strategies will probably be the same. Careful reasoning with everyday observations can usually produce Fermi estimates that are within an order of magnitude of the exact answer if there is one.

Fermi estimates encourage students to reason creatively with approximate quantities and uncertain information. Experiences with such a process can help an individual function in daily life to determine the reasonableness of numerical calculations, of situations or ideas in the workplace, or of a proposed tax cut. A quick estimate of some revenue- or profit-enhancing scheme may show that the idea is comparable to suggesting that General Motors enter the summer sidewalk lemonade market in your neighborhood.

A quick estimate could encourage further investigation or provide the rationale to dismiss the idea. Almost any numerical claim may be treated as a Fermi question when the problem solver does not have access to all necessary background information. In such a situation, one may make rough guesses about relevant numbers, do a few calculations, and then produce estimates. Although many component factors vary greatly from teacher to teacher or even from week to week, rough calculations are not hard to make.

Some important factors to consider for the teacher are: how many classes he or she teaches, how many students are in each of the classes, how much experience has the teacher had in general and has the teacher previously taught the classes, and certainly, as part of teaching style, the kind of homework the teacher assigns, not to mention the teacher's efficiency in grading. Suppose the teacher has 5 classes averaging 25 students per class.

Because the teacher plans to write corrections and comments, assume that the students' papers contain more than a list of answers—they show some student work and, perhaps, explain some of the solutions. Grading such papers might take as long as 10 minutes each, or perhaps even longer. Assuming that the teacher can grade them as quickly as 3 minutes each, on average, the teacher's grading time is:.

Is it reasonable to expect teachers to put in that kind of time? What compromises or other changes might the teacher make to reduce the amount of time? The calculation above offers four possibilities: Reduce the time spent on each homework paper, reduce the number of students per class, reduce the number of classes taught each day, or reduce the number of days per week that homework will be collected. If the teacher decides to spend at most 2 hours grading each night, what is the total number of students for which the teacher should have responsibility?

This calculation is a partial reverse of the one above:. Answering this question requires two preliminary estimates: the circulation of The New York Times and the size of the newspaper. The answers will probably be different on Sundays. Though The New York Times is a national newspaper, the number of subscribers outside the New York metropolitan area is probably small compared to the number inside.

The population of the New York metropolitan area is roughly ten million people. Since most families buy at most one copy, and not all families buy The New York Times , the circulation might be about 1 million newspapers each day. A circulation of , seems too small and 2 million seems too big.

The Sunday and weekday editions probably have different. A Sunday edition of the paper is the same width and length, but perhaps 2 inches thick. Is the company's warehouse big enough? The paper will come on rolls, but to make the estimates easy, assume it is stacked. If it were stacked 10 feet high, the supply would require , square feet of floor space. The company's 14, square foot storage facility will probably not be big enough as its size differs by almost an order of magnitude from the estimate.

The circulation estimate and the size of the newspaper estimate should each be within a factor of 2, implying that the , square foot estimate is off by at most a factor of 4—less than an order of magnitude. How big a warehouse is needed? An acre is 43, square feet so about two acres of land is needed.

After gaining some experience with these types of problems, students can be encouraged to pay close attention to the units and to be ready to make and support claims about the accuracy of their estimates.

Paying attention to units and including units as algebraic quantities in calculations is a common technique in engineering and the sciences. Reasoning about a formula by paying attention only to the units is called dimensional analysis. Sometimes, rather than a single estimate, it is helpful to make estimates of upper and lower bounds. Such an approach reinforces the idea that an exact answer is not the goal.

In many situations, students could first estimate upper and lower bounds, and then collect some real data to determine whether the answer lies between those bounds. In the traditional game of guessing the number of jelly beans in a jar, for example, all students should be able to estimate within an order of magnitude, or perhaps within a factor of two.

Making the closest guess, however, involves some chance. Fermi questions are useful outside the workplace. Some Fermi questions have political ramifications:. Creating Fermi problems is easy. Simply ask quantitative questions for which there is no practical way to determine exact values. Students could be encouraged to make up their own. Examples are: ''How many oak trees are there in Illinois?

It can stimulate some real mathematical thinking. In some buildings, all of the elevators can travel to all of the floors, while in others the elevators are restricted to stopping only on certain floors. What is the advantage of having elevators that travel only to certain floors?

When is this worth instituting? Scheduling elevators is a common example of an optimization problem that has applications in all aspects of business and industry. Optimal scheduling in general not only can save time and money, but it can contribute to safety e. The elevator problem further illustrates an important feature of many economic and political arguments—the dilemma of trying simultaneously to optimize several different needs.

Politicians often promise policies that will be the least expensive, save the most lives, and be best for the environment. Think of flood control or occupational safety rules, for example. When we are lucky, we can perhaps find a strategy of least cost, a strategy that saves the most lives, or a strategy that damages the environment least. But these might not be the same strategies: generally one cannot simultaneously satisfy two or more independent optimization conditions.

This is an important message for students to learn, in order to become better educated and more critical consumers and citizens. In the elevator problem, customer satisfaction can be emphasized by minimizing the average elevator time waiting plus riding for employees in an office building.

Minimizing wait-time during rush hours means delivering many people quickly, which might be accomplished by filling the elevators and making few stops. During off-peak hours, however, minimizing wait-time means maximizing the availability of the elevators. There is no reason to believe that these two goals will yield the same strategy. Finding the best strategy for each is a mathematical problem; choosing one of the two strategies or a compromise strategy is a management decision, not a mathematical deduction.

This example serves to introduce a complex topic whose analysis is well within the range of high school students. Though the calculations require little more than arithmetic, the task puts a premium on the creation of reasonable alternative strategies. Students should recognize that some configurations e. A systematic evaluation of all possible configurations is usually required to find the optimal solution. Such a systematic search of the possible solution space is important in many modeling situations where a formal optimal strategy is not known.

Creating and evaluating reasonable strategies for the elevators is quite appropriate for high school student mathematics and lends itself well to thoughtful group effort. How do you invent new strategies? How do you know that you have considered all plausible strategies? These are mathematical questions, and they are especially amenable to group discussion. Students should be able to use the techniques first developed in solving a simple case with only a few stories and a few elevators to address more realistic situations e.

Using the results of a similar but simpler problem to model a more complicated problem is an important way to reason in mathematics. Start by establishing the kind of building—a hotel, an office building, an apartment building? How many people are on the different floors? What are their normal destinations e. What happens during rush hours? To be successful at the elevator task, students must first develop a mathematical model of the problem.

The model might be a graphical representation for each elevator, with time on the horizontal axis and the floors represented on the vertical axis, or a tabular representation indicating the time spent on each floor. Students must identify the pertinent variables and make simplifying assumptions about which of the possible floors an elevator will visit. This section works through some of the details in a particularly simple case.

Consider an office building with six occupied floors, employing people, and a ground floor that is not used for business. Suppose there are three elevators, each of which can hold 10 people. Further suppose that each elevator takes approximately 25 seconds to fill on the ground floor, then takes 5 seconds to move between floors and 15 seconds to open and close at each floor on which it stops.

What happens in the morning when everyone arrives for work? Assume that everyone arrives at approximately the same time and enters the elevators on the ground floor. If all elevators go to all floors and if the people are evenly divided among all three elevators, each elevator will have to make 8 trips of 10 people each.

When considering a single trip of one elevator, assume for simplicity that 10 people get on the elevator at the ground floor and that it stops at each floor on the way up, because there may be an occupant heading to each floor. Adding 5 seconds to move to each floor and 15 seconds to stop yields 20 seconds for each of the six floors.

On the way down, since no one is being picked up or let off, the elevator does not stop, taking 5 seconds for each of six floors for a total of 30 seconds. This round-trip is represented in Table 1. Since each elevator makes 8 trips, the total time will be 1, seconds or 23 minutes, 20 seconds.

Now suppose that one elevator serves floors 1—3 and, because of the longer trip, two elevators are assigned to floors 4—6. The elevators serving the top. The elevator serving the bottom floors will save 20 seconds for each of the top floors and will save time on the return trip as well.

The times for these trips are shown in Table 2. Assuming the employees are evenly distributed among the floors 40 people per floor , elevator A will transport people, requiring 12 trips, and elevators B and C will transport people, requiring 6 trips each. These trips will take seconds 20 minutes for elevator A and seconds 13 minutes for elevators B and C, resulting in a small time savings about 3 minutes over the first scenario.

Because elevators B and C are finished so much sooner than elevator A, there is likely a more efficient solution. The two round-trip times in Table 2 do not differ by much because the elevators move quickly between floors but stop at floors relatively slowly.

This observation suggests that a more efficient arrangement might be to assign each elevator to a pair of floors. The times for such a scenario are listed in Table 3. Again assuming 40 employees per floor, each elevator will deliver 80 people, requiring 8 trips, taking at most a total of seconds. Perhaps this is the optimal solution. If so, then the above analysis of this simple case suggests two hypotheses:. Mathematically, one could try to show that this solution is optimal by trying all possible elevator assignments or by carefully reasoning, perhaps by showing that the above hypotheses are correct.

Practically, however, it doesn't matter because this solution considers only the morning rush hour and ignores periods of low use. The assignment is clearly not optimal during periods of low use, and much of the inefficiency is related to the first hypothesis for rush hour optimization: that each floor is served by a single elevator. With this condition, if an employee on floor 6 arrives at the ground floor just after elevator C has departed, for example, she or he will have to wait nearly two minutes for elevator C to return, even if elevators A and B are idle.

There are other inefficiencies that are not considered by focusing on the rush hour. Because each floor is served by a single elevator, an employee who wishes to travel from floor 3 to floor 6, for example, must go via the ground floor and switch elevators. Most employees would prefer more flexibility than a single elevator serving each floor. At times when the elevators are not all busy, unassigned elevators will provide the quickest response and the greatest flexibility.

Because this optimal solution conflicts with the optimal rush hour solution, some compromise is necessary. In this simple case, perhaps elevator A could serve all floors, elevator B could serve floors , and elevator C could serve floors The second hypothesis, above, deserves some further thought. The efficiency of the rush hour solution Table 3 is due in part to the even division of employees among the floors. If employees were unevenly distributed with, say, of the people working on the top two floors, then elevator C would need to make 12 trips, taking a total of seconds, resulting in almost no benefit over unassigned elevators.

Thus, an efficient solution in an actual building must take into account the distribution of the employees among the floors. Because the stopping time on each floor is three times as large as the traveling time between floors 15 seconds versus 5 seconds , this solution effectively ignores the traveling time by assigning the same number of employees to each elevator. For taller buildings, the traveling time will become more significant. In those cases fewer employees should be assigned to the elevators that serve the upper floors than are assigned to the elevators that serve the lower floors.

The problem can be made more challenging by altering the number of elevators, the number of floors, and the number of individuals working on each floor. The rate of movement of elevators can be determined by observing buildings in the local area. Some elevators move more quickly than others. Entrance and exit times could also be measured by students collecting. In a similar manner, the number of workers, elevators, and floors could be taken from local contexts.

A related question is, where should the elevators go when not in use? Is it best for them to return to the ground floor? Should they remain where they were last sent? Should they distribute themselves evenly among the floors? Or should they go to floors of anticipated heavy traffic?

The answers will depend on the nature of the building and the time of day. Without analysis, it will not be at all clear which strategy is best under specific conditions. In some buildings, the elevators are controlled by computer programs that "learn" and then anticipate the traffic patterns in the building. A different example that students can easily explore in detail is the problem of situating a fire station or an emergency room in a city.

Here the key issue concerns travel times to the region being served, with conflicting optimization goals: average time vs. A location that minimizes the maximum time of response may not produce the least average time of response. Commuters often face similar choices in selecting routes to work. They may want to minimize the average time, the maximum time, or perhaps the variance, so that their departure and arrival times are more predictable.

Most of the optimization conditions discussed so far have been expressed in units of time. Sometimes, however, two optimization conditions yield strategies whose outcomes are expressed in different and sometimes incompatible units of measurement. In many public policy issues e. For environmental issues, sometimes the units themselves are difficult to identify e. When one of the units is money, it is easy to find expensive strategies but impossible to find ones that have virtually no cost.

Clearly some compromise is necessary. Working with models of different solutions can help students understand the consequences of some of the compromises. An energy consulting firm that recommends and installs insulation and similar energy saving devices has received a complaint from a customer.

Her gas bills have been higher than the previous winter, however, and now she wants a refund on the cost of the insulation. She admits that this winter has been colder than the last, but she had expected still to see some savings. The facts: This winter the customer has used 1, therms, whereas last winter she used only 1, therms. This winter has been colder: 5, heating-degree-days this winter compared to 4, heating-degree-days last winter.

See explanation below. How does a representative of the energy consulting firm explain to this customer that the accumulated heating-degree-days measure how much colder this winter has been, and then explain how to calculate her anticipated versus her actual savings.

Explaining the mathematics behind a situation can be challenging and requires a real knowledge of the context, the procedures, and the underlying mathematical concepts. Such communication of mathematical ideas is a powerful learning device for students of mathematics as well as an important skill for the workplace. Though the procedure for this problem involves only proportions, a thorough explanation of the mathematics behind the procedure requires understanding of linear modeling and related algebraic reasoning, accumulation and other precursors of calculus, as well as an understanding of energy usage in home heating.

The customer seems to understand that a straight comparison of gas usage does not take into account the added costs of colder weather, which can be significant. But before calculating any anticipated or actual savings, the customer needs some understanding of heating-degree-days. For many years, weather services and oil and gas companies have been using heating-degree-days to explain and predict energy usage and to measure energy savings of insulation and other devices.

Similar degree-day units are also used in studying insect populations and crop growth. The concept provides a simple measure of the accumulated amount of cold or warm weather over time. In the discussion that follows, all temperatures are given in degrees Fahrenheit, although the process is equally workable using degrees Celsius. Suppose, for example, that the minimum temperature in a city on a given day is 52 degrees and the maximum temperature is 64 degrees.

The average temperature for the day is then taken to be 58 degrees. Subtracting that result from 65 degrees the cutoff point for heating , yields 7 heating-degree-days for the day. By recording high and low temperatures and computing their average each day, heating-degree-days can be accumulated over the course of a month, a winter, or any period of time as a measure of the coldness of that period.

Over five consecutive days, for example, if the average temperatures were 58, 50, 60, 67, and 56 degrees Fahrenheit, the calculation yields 7, 15, 5, 0, and 9 heating-degree-days respectively, for a total accumulation of 36 heating-degree-days for the five days. Note that the fourth day contributes 0 heating-degree-days to the total because the temperature was above 65 degrees.

The relationship between average temperatures and heating-degree-days is represented graphically in Figure 1. The average temperatures are shown along the solid line graph. The area of each shaded rectangle represents the number of heating-degree-days for that day, because the width of each rectangle is one day and the height of each rectangle is the number of degrees below 65 degrees.

Over time, the sum of the areas of the rectangles represents the number of heating-degree-days accumulated during the period. Teachers of calculus will recognize connections between these ideas and integral calculus. The statement that accumulated heating-degree-days should be proportional to gas or heating oil usage is based primarily on two assumptions: first, on a day for which the average temperature is above 65 degrees, no heating should be required, and therefore there should be no gas or heating oil usage; second, a day for which the average temperature is 25 degrees 40 heating-degree-days should require twice as much heating as a day for which the average temperature is The first assumption is reasonable because most people would not turn on their heat if the temperature outside is above 65 degrees.

The second assumption is consistent with Newton's law of cooling, which states that the rate at which an object cools is proportional to the difference in temperature between the object and its environment. That is, a house which is 40 degrees warmer than its environment will cool at twice the rate and therefore consume energy at twice the rate to keep warm of a house which is 20 degrees warmer than its environment.

The customer who accepts the heating-degree-day model as a measure of energy usage can compare this winter's usage with that of last winter. How good is the heating-degree-day model in predicting energy usage? In a home that has a thermometer and a gas meter or a gauge on a tank, students could record daily data for gas usage and high and low temperature to test the accuracy of the model.

Of course, gas used for cooking and heating water needs to be taken into account. For homes in which the gas tank has no gauge or doesn't provide accurate enough data, a similar experiment could be performed relating accumulated heating-degree-days to gas or oil usage between fill-ups.

It turns out that in well-sealed modern houses, the cutoff temperature for heating can be lower than 65 degrees sometimes as low as 55 degrees because of heat generated by light bulbs, appliances, cooking, people, and pets. At temperatures sufficiently below the cutoff, linearity turns out to be a good assumption.

Note that the slope, -. Note also that the accumulation of heating-degree-days takes a linear equation and turns it into a proportion. There are some important data analysis issues that could be addressed by such an investigation. It is sometimes dangerous, for example, to assume linearity with only a few data points, yet this widely used model essentially assumes linearity from only one data point, the other point having coordinates of 65 degrees, 0 gas usage.

Over what range of temperatures, if any, is this a reasonable assumption? Is the standard method of computing average temperature a good method? If, for example, a day is mostly near 20 degrees but warms up to 50 degrees for a short time in the afternoon, is 35 heating-degree-days a good measure of the heating required that day? Computing averages of functions over time is a standard problem that can be solved with integral calculus.

With knowledge of typical and extreme rates of temperature change, this could become a calculus problem or a problem for approximate solution by graphical methods without calculus, providing background experience for some of the important ideas in calculus. Students could also investigate actual savings after insulating a home in their school district. Some U. Department of Energy studies discuss the relationship between heating-degree-days and performance and find the cutoff temperature to be lower in some modern houses.

State energy offices also have useful documents. What is the relationship between heating-degree-days computed using degrees Fahrenheit, as above, and heating-degree-days computed using degrees Celsius? Showing that the proper conversion is a direct proportion and not the standard Fahrenheit-Celsius conversion formula requires some careful and sophisticated mathematical thinking.

Traditionally, vocational mathematics and precollege mathematics have been separate in schools. But the technological world in which today's students will work and live calls for increasing connection between mathematics and its applications. Workplace-based mathematics may be good mathematics for everyone. High School Mathematics at Work illuminates the interplay between technical and academic mathematics.

This collection of thought-provoking essays—by mathematicians, educators, and other experts—is enhanced with illustrative tasks from workplace and everyday contexts that suggest ways to strengthen high school mathematical education.

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