Return to Headlines

District 230 math students take a calculating field trip

The District 230 Multivariable Calculus Honors, which is composed of students from all three high schools, recently took a field trip to the Museum of Science and Industry, where they had the opportunity to observe calculus and mathematics first-hand. 


They explored several exhibits, such as Science Storm, the Space Center, Numbers in Nature, Whispering Gallery, and Art of the Bicycle, and saw ways in which math directly applied to real life.


They also had an opportunity to see vector fields in action with planetary magnetic fields and space curves drawn in outer space with planetary motion during the viewing of "Worlds Beyond Earth" in the spherical Giant Dome theater.


Seeing math out in the real world reinforces their understanding and allows for their skills in the classroom to be more seamlessly applied to real life scenarios. Stagg High School Math/Business Division Chair Craig Ebel said, “This field trip is a great example of authentic learning. Students take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to the world around them. It’s probable that these Calculus students have been to the museum several times, but they may never have looked at the exhibits with such purpose.” 


The students applied their classroom knowledge to the exhibits they experienced. For instance, one student explored revolutions in string waves, noting that rotating waveform represents the amplitude, frequency and wavelength of any wave found in nature. Calculus allows us to take a two dimensional object, spin it very rapidly to create a three dimensional disk or washer, and then find the now volume of such a shape.


Another student recognized vector fields in fluid flow, noted that the various uses and models of the ripples in the water can be modeled by different vector fields mathematically demonstrating the water in a 3 dimensional coordinate system.


Another student credits calculus for the reason there is music, saying it seems the ratio for chords or musical notes can be found using arc length from calculus (or wavelength).