Dr. Craig Allen/USGS

STANDARDS

CCSS: 4.NBT.B.5, MP4, MP6, MP75.OA.A.1, 4.OA.A.3, MP1, MP2, MP3

TEKS: 5.4F, 4.4H

Can Math Save the World?

See how people are finding solutions to some of Earthʼs biggest challenges

Did you know that the math you’re learning today could one day be used to help solve some of the world’s major issues? It’s true! Around the globe, mathematicians and scientists are using math to make the world a better place.

Did you know that the math you’re learning today could one day be used to help solve some of the world’s major issues? It’s true! Around the globe, mathematicians and scientists are using math to make the world a better place. 

Fighting Wildfires

Wildfires are one of these issues. They spread fast. So people need to act fast too. In 2018, more than 150,000 acres of land burned in and around Paradise, California. To make sense of the damage, officials turned to Gregory Crutsinger. He programs and flies drones, or small, unmanned aircraft.

 “I love flying drones,” he says. “But you need to have basic math skills in order to do the job effectively.”

Crutsinger arrived in Paradise a few days after the wildfire began. He programmed 15 drones to fly above the wildfire. They took more than 70,000 photos, which Crutsinger used to create maps of the affected areas. Officials used the maps to assess the damage and plan for recovery.

Organizing the drones took a lot of problem solving. But Crutsinger is glad he could help. “A lot of people really care about their community,” he says.

Read on to learn more about some other people working to make the world a better place—with math!

Wildfires spread fast. So people need to act fast too. In 2018, there was a huge wildfire in Paradise, California. More than 150,000 acres of land were damaged. To make sense of the damage, officials turned to Gregory Crutsinger. He programs and flies drones. They are small, unmanned aircraft.

“I love flying drones,” Crutsinger says. “But you need to have basic math skills so you can do the job effectively.”

Crutsinger arrived in Paradise a few days after the wildfire began. He programmed 15 drones. They flew above the wildfire. They took more than 70,000 photos. Crutsinger used the photos to create maps of the affected areas. Officials used the maps to observe the damage. They also used them to plan for recovery.

Organizing the drones took a lot of problem solving. But Crutsinger is glad he could help. “A lot of people really care about their community,” he says.

Read on to learn more. You’ll meet some other people working to make the world a better place—with math!

Mark Spencer/Auscape II/Minden Pictures

Protecting Fish Populations 

Billions of people eat seafood as part of their diet. But there are only so many fish in the sea. So to keep fish populations healthy, some governments have created marine protected areas where fishing is either limited or not allowed.

But can marine protected areas help the fishing industry too? Patrick De Leenheer wanted to know. He is a mathematician at Oregon State University. He came up with a complex math equation called a mathematical model. It’s designed to predict where to create a marine protected area so fish can get the most benefit while still allowing fishermen to catch them.

De Leenheer hopes that his work will eventually be used by lawmakers around the world.

“Mathematics is a powerful and precise language,” he says. “It can help us solve complex, real-world problems.”

Billions of people eat seafood. But there are only so many fish in the sea. To keep fish populations healthy, some governments have created marine protected areas. In those areas, fishing is either limited, or not allowed.

But can marine protected areas help the fishing industry too? Patrick De Leenheer wanted to know. He is a mathematician at Oregon State University. He came up with a complex math equation. It is called a mathematical model. It’s designed to make predictions.

The model predicts where to create a marine protected area. The goal is to help fish populations and fishermen too.

De Leenheer hopes that his work will eventually be used by lawmakers around the world.

“Mathematics is a powerful and precise language,” he says. “It can help us solve complex, real-world problems.”

NASA

Getting Back to the Moon

Astronauts first visited the moon in 1969. Now, 50 years later, people are aiming to explore even farther. Scientists and mathematicians are developing rockets and spacecraft that can return to the moon and potentially visit other planets.

But spaceflight is complex and expensive. It takes almost 1 million pounds of fuel to get a rocket to the moon. That’s because a rocket’s engines need to create enough of a force called thrust to overcome Earth’s gravity.

Mathematicians and scientists are working on ways to reach the moon that use less fuel. This would help future missions be more cost-effective.

Astronauts first visited the moon in 1969. Now, 50 years later, people are aiming to explore even farther. Scientists and mathematicians are developing rockets and spacecraft. They can return to the moon. And they can potentially visit other planets.

But spaceflight is complex and expensive. It takes almost 1 million pounds of fuel to get a rocket to the moon. That’s because a rocket’s engines must create enough of a force called thrust. Thrust enables the rocket to overcome Earth’s gravity.

Mathematicians and scientists are working on ways to reach the moon using less fuel. This would help future missions be more cost-effective.

MARTHA NIGRELLE/UPI/Newscom

Forecasting Superstorms

Worldwide, extreme weather is becoming more frequent and more severe.

Amber Emory has always been fascinated by extreme weather. She grew up watching storms at her grandparents’ lake house in upstate New York. Now, Emory is a meteorologist, or weather scientist, at NASA. She uses math to predict hurricanes. “Meteorology is applied math,” she says.

When a hurricane forms over the ocean, Emory’s team sends an unmanned aircraft. Its five scientific instruments collect information about
the storm.

Within 20 minutes, the data is sent to meteorologists. “We figure out where the hurricane will make landfall and how strong it will be,” she says.

Then the team communicates storm information to the public. “What drives me every day is making sure people are safe during a storm,” Emory says.

Worldwide, extreme weather is happening more often. And it’s also becoming more severe.

Amber Emory has always been fascinated by extreme weather. She grew up watching storms at her grandparents’ lake house. It was in upstate New York. Now Emory is a meteorologist. That is a weather scientist. She works at NASA. She uses math to predict hurricanes. “Meteorology is applied math,” she says.

When a hurricane forms over the ocean, Emory’s team sends up an unmanned aircraft. It has five scientific instruments. They collect information about the storm.

Within 20 minutes, the data is sent to meteorologists. “We figure out where the hurricane will make landfall. And we figure how strong it will be,” Emory says.

The team communicates storm information to the public. Emory says, “what drives me every day is making sure people are safe during a storm.” 

Over 3 days, Crutsinger used 15 drones to map 12,000 acres of land in California. Teams of people worked 24 hours each day. How many acres of land did each drone need to cover each day? Round your answer to the nearest whole number.

Over 3 days, Crutsinger used 15 drones to map 12,000 acres of land in California. Teams of people worked 24 hours each day. How many acres of land did each drone need to cover each day? Round your answer to the nearest whole number.

Canada has the world’s longest coastline of any country. There are more than 150,000 miles along the ocean and almost 6,000 miles along the Great Lakes. About how many times longer is the ocean coastline compared with the coastline along the Great Lakes?

Canada has the world’s longest coastline of any country. There are more than 150,000 miles along the ocean and almost 6,000 miles along the Great Lakes. About how many times longer is the ocean coastline compared with the coastline along the Great Lakes?

NASA is building a new rocket called the Space Launch System. It will weigh 5,750,000 pounds. It will be able to send 57,000 pounds of cargo into orbit beyond the moon. What is the total weight of the rocket and cargo?

NASA is building a new rocket called the Space Launch System. It will weigh 5,750,000 pounds. It will be able to send 57,000 pounds of cargo into orbit beyond the moon. What is the total weight of the rocket and cargo?

Between 1851 and 2017, North Carolina had 7 major hurricanes. Texas had 12 more than North Carolina. Louisiana had 2 fewer than Texas. On a separate sheet of paper, create a bar graph representing the number of major hurricanes for each state listed.

Between 1851 and 2017, North Carolina had 7 major hurricanes. Texas had 12 more than North Carolina. Louisiana had 2 fewer than Texas. On a separate sheet of paper, create a bar graph representing the number of major hurricanes for each state listed.

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