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Topic: The Attack on America: Who needs math at a time like this?
Replies: 3   Last Post: Sep 25, 2001 3:04 PM

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Karen Hicken

Posts: 1
Registered: 12/3/04
The Attack on America: Who needs math at a time like this?
Posted: Sep 15, 2001 3:52 PM
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As the terrible events of Tuesday unfolded, I heard some
disturbing sentiments: "I just wanna leave", "So does this mean we
don’t have to do our homework?", "Can we just skip class today and
watch the news?"

It seems to me that students are saying, "Who needs math at a
time like this?" If we are to continue to teach, this question must
be answered. So who needs math at a time like this?

Rescue workers digging people out of the rubble of collapsed
buildings must be able to calculate how much force they can apply at
what angle in order to lift blocks safely. They must be able to
predict what buildings are about to fall, and where. They do not have
time to find a calculator and look up the formula for volume on a
cheat sheet, and yet they know that they have to dig through the
equivalent of a city’s worth of buildings piled on top of each other.

Doctors and nurses must be able to calculate how much medicine to
give each person based on body weight and other factors. They must be
able to figure out how many liters of blood they need, and how much of
the supply has already been used. They need to order supplies, and be
aware of how much time goes by between repeated treatments.

Reporters are deluging us with facts, figures, and speculations about
the times, places, and the number of dead, wounded, and survivors.

FAA workers had to calculate new flight plans to get all of the
planes out of the air safely. If flight 496 left Salt Lake City at
5:15 am at 2000 miles per hour, and flight 901 is heading southwest
out of Detroit at 8:30 at 1500 miles per hour, and they both have to
land at the same airport in Illinois, will they crash?

The passengers on the Pennsylvania plane made a horrible calculation
and decided to crash in a field now and die, rather than take the
chance of hitting something bigger, and killing thousands of people
when the hijackers reached their target.

As the nation rebuilds, architects and engineers will draw plans for
new buildings that will be stronger than before: buildings that will
take such punishment, and stay standing a few minutes longer, so a few
more people can escape should another disaster occur. They will marvel
at the ones who built so well that the towers would fall straight
down, and not sideways, knocking down half the city in a domino
effect.

On the back wall of my classroom, I have a poster that reads: ONLY
THE EDUCATED ARE FREE. The United States can only maintain its
freedom, prosperity, and stability with an educated populace. Our
economy depends on skilled and technical labor. Our government
depends on citizens who are well informed about the history and
current events that lead to events like this. Those that are educated
can lend a hand, or a mind, to build up any community, from organizing
relief efforts to preserving peace in our ethnically diverse
neighborhoods. Those who are ignorant can only riot, retaliate
blindly, or watch in horror as the world crumbles around them.

In answer to the question, who needs math at a time like this, all I
can say is, at a time like this, who can do without it?

Karen Hicken
Math Teacher
Lorain, Ohio





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