Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Vectors and Calculations

The other day Ariel announced that she’d figured out how to back-up the car. Now since she’s been driving for years, it came as a bit of a surprise to me. Granted, she’s pretty bad in reverse, but hey, she can do it. (Though there was that incident with the Hummer...)

So I asked her what she meant. She said, “I’ve realized that backing up—whether it’s parallel parking, reversing down a driveway, out of parking place, or doing a three point turn—is a vector problem. And the point of motion is the front tires since we have front wheel drive and those are the wheels that turn.” She had a look of triumph on her face.

I nodded my head. She was right from a mathematical standpoint. I said, “Yes, sweetheart, and if that helps you, I’m thrilled. The rest of us just turned around, pick a fixed point and back up.”

But that didn’t diminish her excitement. After all, when we’re driving anywhere as a family, this is the child that offers to calculate acceleration when we’re going around a curve because it’s a “cool calc 3 multivariable problem.” She also explains the mathematical principles of why we brake going into a curve and why we accelerate on the way out, and then she offers to calculate it. The rest of us nod politely and look out the window. Who knew people could get so giddy about math?


  1. The rest of us don't need a math formula to back up.

  2. I personally never knew people could get so giddy about math...

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  4. Andrew McPhersonJuly 6, 2010 at 9:33 AM

    Agh!! Calculating equations while riding in a car?! I would get carsick!!

  5. I wasn't actually talking about backing up. I was telling you about how I figured out how to park--that was the vector thing. And it wasn't recent, it was from when I was learning to drive.

    Hey, wait, I'm bad in reverse? ;)

    We did calculate curvature in my Cal 3 class, but I can't actually calculate it without a function for the road. And since I don't know the engineers who designed the roads, I can't get the functions. So I can really only do it in theory. But, still, it's neat.

  6. I once tried to get David to help me calculate the distance between the car in front of me and myself using our speed and the four-second rule but he wouldn't cooperate.

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