Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Numbers are Neat!

I'm a huge fan of the TV show Numb3rs. A cast of smart, attractive FBI agents and mathematicians (yes, you read that right) works together to solve crimes. It's just pure geek heaven. Every week, the sexy, brainy CalSci-math-professor-character throws around complicated theorems and algorithms and equations. Then he magically makes them clear for his math-impaired viewers, by pulling concrete examples from everyday life. "Imagine the Freeway at Rush Hour," he'll start, and with a few elegant phrases and swipes of his marker on the board, we understand. So last week's episode started me thinking about the important role numbers play in my own life...for example: as I'm sure we all remember from algebra, if Distance=Rate x Time, and the bus picks my kids up at the end of the street at 8:55 a.m., and the bus stop is 1/10 of a mile from our house, and it's now 8:52, how many mph over the speed limit do I have to drive to avoid missing the bus (again)? Extra credit: how many times do I have to yell at the boys to get their shoes on and get the heck out the door before resorting to threats? Another practical use of math: if I eat the rest of the Hershey's Special Dark in the cabinet (and I will), and you have to burn 1800 calories to lose a pound, how many extra minutes will I have to spend on the stationary bike at the gym tomorrow? Extra credit: do these workout pants make my rear end look like I just ate an entire chocolate bar? Final example: if Fahrenheit temperatures can be converted to Celcius using the formula X-32 x 5/9, and the thermometer on the tree outside my window reads 2 degrees F, how many layers do I have to pile onto my body when I go for a walk, to avoid frostbite? Extra credit: who am I kidding, there's gotta be something else on TV!

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