Thursday, July 22, 2010

MathEd: New Blog Idea: Real Math Applications

Here is an idea I have had for a few months, but am finally getting around to putting it out there.

How about a new blog that is all about how REAL math solves REAL problems. I am not talking about word problems. I am talking about people documenting ways that math helped them solve real problems. Note that this is not about finding applications for all the math in the course you are teaching or developing right now. This is about finding a way for people who use math to solve problems to share these problems and solutions.

Here is a statistics example from my office:

The Problem: A Project Manager at my company came to me asking how he could present data about variances from planned budgets in a way so that the big variances (both over and under) from budget wouldn't distort the data. When he used means to display the data, a few outliers over stated the degree to which early budgets varied from the final numbers.

The Solution: I first suggested that he look at a trimmed mean, but the solution that ultimately worked was using medians. Medians are less influenced by outliers than the mean, so using them got the job done.

The goal with a blog like I am proposing is to provide a rich repository of ideas for educators and learners to see how math is really used. Note that the problems don't have to come up in office settings. Some might come up at home or in sports or any other context, but in each case, math needs to be used to solve a real problem.

Any interest? Has it already been done? I think we need a set of contributors for this endeavor. I am fine being a contributor, but couldn't take the entire burden on myself.

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