Slaving over an algebraic equation to get a good grade is one thing, computing rate of change and proportional equations as well as metric conversions to help keep a 400-foot ship afloat hundreds of miles from shore is another.
But that is exactly what Mark Wilson’s Triton Middle School seventh and eighth grade Algebra and Pre-Algebra classes are doing as part of the Adopt-A-Ship Program.
“The kids love it,” said Wilson. “Anything that is real, I think the kids like.”
Sponsored by the Propeller Club of the United States, the Adopt-A-Ship program has allowed the Triton students to adopt the Ocean Charger, a Jacksonville, Fla-based cargo vessel that sails the world transporting just about anything such as locomotives, power plant generators and large trucks and boats, including military patrol vessels.
“Anytime you’re sailing it’s a lot of fun because you’re on your own,” said Wilson who went to sea for three years.
The Adopt-a-Ship Program
Wanting to translate his experience to his students, Wilson went looking for something new for them to do over the summer and stumbled on the Adopt-A-Ship program through the Maritime Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The math teacher began corresponding with the Maritime Administration but did not hear anything definitive until late December. The program began in early January when his classes took the Ocean Charger under their wing.
“It’s mostly just facts about the boat,” said Pre-Algebra student Donna Ross. “Then we figure out all the problems. It’s cool just getting the information and then figuring out the problems from it, instead of (Mr. Wilson) just giving us an equation to do. It’s a real and practical life situation.”
Wilson himself has had to solve problems for real while working offshore and that is the whole point of the Adopt-A-Ship project, showing the real world applications of mathematics.
“We do stuff on how far they can go on a tank (of fuel),” said Algebra student Liam Gay-Killeen, who keeps track of the ship’s progress on a map in the classroom. “(But) we haven’t helped (the mariners) out, they just tell us what to do. It’s a good project.”
“It furthers your interest in how ships work and how our stuff gets here,” said fellow Algebra student Justin Flodman. “It was kind of a mystery how stuff shows up at the grocery store and you buy it.”
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