Maritime Math, Lowell

This program has taken on so many names – “When Will We Ever Use This?” - “Math on the Merrimack” - “Trig on the Water & Sextants in the Sky” - but it all comes down to this: More than Just Math. This began as a partnership between the high school math classes and Lowell’s Boat Shop. Students in the CP Advanced Math and Honors Analysis courses have taken trips to Lowell’s Boat Shop during class time. Students have had practical, hands-on, real-life application of mathematics at work beyond the classroom. Experiments on the Merrimack River have involved velocity of currents, water depth, tidal variation, and rowing speed, with the application of geometry, trigonometry, and algebraic functions. After learning to row, classes learned to use sextants to measure angles, then used trigonometry to calculate distance, their own rowing speed, and the river’s current speed. From information gathered from various points along the riverbanks, students created an accurate scale map of the area. Students have learned to cope with variables including currents, tides, and wind, and have made tremendous strides in teamwork in a completely new environment. Ultimately, as students generate real-life data and are provided with hands-on experiences, they are also establishing new skills while forging a deeper connection with their community. This year, the program was expanded and added a service-learning component. In an effort to create an interactive and engaging aspect for younger students who visit Lowell’s Boat Shop, the high school students created mathematical scavenger hunts around the shop. 

“Several students remarked on “actually understanding” the math that we have done in class with the application of these real skills. More than just math, though, I have seen significant growth in my students’ teamwork, communication skills, and patience with each other.”