GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Jasmine Cass says she often asks in her Glenwood Springs High School math classes how she might apply some of those abstract concepts in real life.
Earlier this week, the GSHS junior and 19 other students in teacher Jordan Kurt-Mason’s advanced algebra class got a first-hand look at just how the sum and difference of functions come into play for he and his fellow U.S. Whitewater Rafting teammates.
Using special computerized paddles, the students took to rafts in the Glenwood Springs Community Center pool to gather data as part of their investigation of piecewise functions, domain and range: in other words, how much force is being applied to a paddle and how that transfers to moving the raft across the water and at what speed.
“I like being able to experience real-life applications in whatever I’m learning,” Cass said, after she and boatmates Eliette Rutledge, Casey Lindeman and Hunter Hale took their turn conducting the experiment.
“It always helps to be able to learn more about something by doing it,” she said.
Junior Taylor Fiscus agreed.
“We’re able to actually experience it, instead of just sitting down in class and learning it,” Fiscus said.
“It makes math look a lot more practical,” added fellow junior Richard Scott.
Especially if you’re the coach of a rafting team, he said it’s valuable to know who the stronger paddlers are so they can be properly positioned in the boat, so as to maximize performance.
“Above all, it shows that math can be fun,” said Kurt-Mason, who invited his five fellow members of the U.S. Whitewater Rafting Team — Mongo Reeder, Seth Mason, Andrew Bishop, Matt Norfleet and John Mark Seelig — to help out with the math project on Tuesday.
The team [usaraft.org], based primarily in the Roaring Fork and Eagle river valleys, is training for the world championships to be held next month in New Zealand.
To help the team train, a company called smartOar donated the special computer program. It allows them to measure the flex of the paddle and creates a graphic analysis of Newton Force over time.
From that, the team can know where to make adjustments and work to improve, Kurt-Mason explained.
It occurred to the first-year GSHS teacher that it was just what his math students needed to understand the concepts he was teaching in class.
“We get very few opportunities to take math out of the classroom and have a very hands-on, personalized exploration of a standard,” he said. “The kids have been really excited about seeing math in ways besides just looking at a graph. It just allows them to connect with math a little more.”
Kurt-Mason credited the staff at the Glenwood Community Center for allowing use of the pool, and said he hopes to do it again next year.
The city of Glenwood Springs-run community center routinely allows school groups to use its facilities for educational purposes.
Next week, Carbondale Community School students will have their annual regatta at the pool, where they will test the sea-worthiness and navigability of their homemade boats.