**Home**
**/** **Introductory
Material **
**A
Note to the Student**

Having
taught mathematics for many years, we realize that many students who
take beginning level mathematics courses, often not by choice but
by requirement, never really understand how it could ever be useful
or applied to “real life”. How many times have we heard
questions such as, “What’s this stuff good for?” or,
“When will I ever use this in my life?” or, “Why do
I have to learn this if I’m an English (or fill in the blank)
major?”. Many textbooks have atempted to appease the the student
by presenting “applications” to illustrate the relevancy
of mathematics, These “applications” consisted of “word”
or “story” problems such as the ones that begin with “john
is twice as old as Sue now . . .” or, “Train A leaves Chicago
at 10 a.m. . . .” or even at the calculus level, “The top
of a ladder leaning against a wall is sliding down the wall at a constant
rate . . .”. These “application” all seemed so fake,
so unreal—if one needs to know how old John or Sue is, simply
ask them, and who cares what time two trains pass in the night, or
by the time you solved the ladder problem, it surely would jhave crashed
to the ground.

These
phony “applications” most likely provided full confirmation
to the skeptical student that mathematics had no role in their own
life. It must be some sort of intellectual sport indulged in by an
elite few—and yes, there may be some uses for mathematics, but
they are far removed from their world.

The
Earth Math Modules are designed as an attempt to expose students to
uses of mathematics to solve problems or analyze phenomena that exist
in most people’s dat-to-day lives. Most of the applications are
focused on environmental problems or issues that confront us daily—in
our neighborhoods, our cities and towns, and in the countryside and
wilderness areas. Issues addressed include population growth, oil
and coal consumption, air pollution, water availability, food supply,
urban and rural development, and others.

It
is our hope that these modules will provide examples for the student
of authentic uses of mathematics. And even though the student may
never personally use any of the mathematics studied in school, he
or she will at least realize that mathematics can play an important
in society and for this reason, gain a respect and appreciation for
this age-old subject. And who knows, maybe a spark of interest will
lead to further study of mathematics and science.

A
second goal is to expose the student to information about environmental
issues that exist today, particularly population growth and natural
resource usage. Hopefully these facts will enable the student to make
informed judgments and decisions in order to protect our beautiful
planet and its resources for us and future generations.

The
mathematical models, or equations, etc., developed in the Earth Math
Modules are admittedly over-simplified with restrictive assumptions.
This is due to the level of the courses for which they are written.
Often, mathematical models use more sophisticated tools in order to
more accurately describe phenomena. However, the Earth Math models
hopefully provide examples that can be understood and appreciated
by all students, and shed some light on the beauty and power of mathematics
and science.