News

Using tire marks to learn math at Scott Middle School

Some 8th-grade algebra students at Scott Middle School were treated to a creative class lesson recently when their guest teacher was a sheriff’s deputy who peeled out in his cruiser on a blocked-off street outside the school, then slammed on the brakes to leave tire marks that stretched more than 50 feet.

The math lesson left an impression on more than Hazel Scott Drive. Students were wide-eyed during the outdoor demonstration and equally engaged when they moved inside afterwards for the classroom application of the data they compiled.

“Getting to apply the math that we’re starting to learn and see real-world applications was really cool,” said Amelia, one of the students.

Said another student, Evan: “I thought it was cool to see the algorithms and how you use them in life.”

Teacher Alicia Davis wanted a creative way to “bring mathematics to life” for her students. She had the idea of an accident reconstruction scene and called the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office. Deputy Drew Bolzer, an accident reconstruction officer, happily obliged and visited her class April 23.

“Nobody thinks police work is math” Bolzer said. “For the accident reconstruction side of it, it’s all math. That’s how we come up with everything.”

At Scott, students were able to use the length of the tire marks, combined with the coefficient of friction with the street, to calculate the speed that Bolzer’s cruiser was traveling when he hit the brakes.

“I talk to my students a lot about my desire for them to become problem-solvers and to think critically and to be able to communicate their understanding to other people,” Davis said, adding, “To be able to have this experience, and to apply the mathematics and to hear how we can use mathematics in careers - it sounded like a win-win for my students.”

And the answer to the problem? The deputy’s cruiser was traveling approximately 33 miles per hour when he hit the brakes.


Published: May 7, 2018, Updated: May 8, 2018

"To be able to have this experience, and to apply the mathematics and to hear how we can use mathematics in careers - it sounded like a win-win for my students."

Alica Davis, math teacher at Scott Middle School

Gallery