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Mathematics is everywhere in our lives. It is in the CAT scans at a hospital. It is in the e-mail and search engines of the Internet. It is in your hot dog; in the gasoline pump; in court; in the election booth; in your wallpaper, your fingerprints. There is no place, no object, in which math does not play a vital though often hidden part. Yes, mathematics is an important academic discipline, but it is much more - it is the tool for modeling our world. With all of the important and growing contemporary applications of mathematics, teachers especially must provide relevant and informed answers when their students ask, “What’s this stuff good for?”
To help meet this goal COMAP has produced a series of short video pieces designed for high school students. The goal is to show, in an entertaining way, how mathematics affects their lives, and how mathematical models can help build our modern society.
Acid Rain (2:44)
Algebra Court (3:44)
Equal Pay (5:23)
Strawberry Statistics (4:15)
To grow the perfect strawberry, you need sun, water, soil … and statistics! In this video, strawberry researchers Gene Galletta and Olivia Mageau explain how they breed and evaluate new strawberry plants for commercial growers.
An important step comes at the end, when they compare new plants to established commercial varieties. Because growing conditions are often uneven across a field – for instance, some parts of the field might have better soil or more water – the team needs a way to take these differences into account.
They do this by using a statistical method called a “randomized complete block design.” In this scheme, they divide the field into sections, or blocks. Within each block, they plant all the varieties they’re testing (including the established ones) in a random order. They then sample strawberries of each variety from all of the blocks. That way, they can be pretty sure that any differences they find are due to the quality of the plants, not the conditions in which they were grown.