Friday 5 May 2017

Why maths counts 

People tell me all the time that they never use the maths they learned in school in the 'real' world.  Well, that's all about to end as I continue a very relevant and serious series that demonstrates the highly relevant nature of the math you learned in school and how it can save your life.

The chase!

You and your friend are being chased across a flat Savanna in Africa by bad guys, on foot.  They are twenty minutes behind you. You have to cover a further ten kilometers to get to safety.  The bad guys are going to send their fittest runners after you.  They will catch you and kill you.  The stakes are high but luckily for you, you have a twenty minute head start.

Scenario one - No maths skills

You look at your friend, the adrenaline is pumping, and you say, "lets just get going, they're gonna catch us.  Run!"  You both sprint off toward safety which is ten kilometers away.  You figure you will just go hell for leather and keep moving.  Hopefully the adrenaline and the head start will be enough.

Unfortunately, you and your friend hit the wall after two kilometers.  The heat has sucked the moisture from your body, cramp is kicking in, and the sun is beating down on you and its only getting hotter.  The energy is gone, but fear pushes you on.  After five kilometers you start walking, because you simply have no energy left to move.  Suddenly you hear them coming and start to sprint, but fatigue, dehydration and cramp continue to slow you down.  They catch you two kilometers from safety. It ain't pretty.

Scenario two.  High maths skills

Instead of sprinting off like maniacs you grab a stick and start doing some maths. 

What is our head start?  20 minutes.  

Okay, the bad guys are sending their best runners after us. In what time does a top runner run one kilometer?  What is a reasonable upper range?  Lets say 5 minutes per kilometer average over ten kilometers in the Savanna. That means they can get to the other side in 50 minutes.  That means we have 70 minutes to reach the end point at the same time as our pursuers. This means that we can travel at an average speed of seven minutes per kilometer.  If you stick to this pace you will make it!

Seven minutes a kilometer is pretty reasonable - even in the hot hot sun.

Guess what?  You and your friend make it because of your maths skills!  That's right, as you sip back on some cold beers you realise that maths saved your life!  

To end
Algebra is highly relevant! You just never know when such a scenario might occur. 

Are my calculations right?  How else could I have worked this out?  Linear graphs anyone?    


  1. I know I would have fallen into Scenario One!!! Thanks for the heads up, you may have just saved my life! Keep up the great work!

    1. I would too! Except I would have expired even earlier...