In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, there are currently three more hurricanes in the Atlantic: Hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Katia. All three are concerning in one way or another, but Hurricane Irma has developed into one of the most powerful hurricanes on record. It is currently wreaking havoc in the Caribbean, and is headed in the direction of Florida.
As educators, we should be aware of these events going on in the world, and ready to talk to our students in compassionate and intelligent ways about them. My own students (I teach high school math at a small private academy) want to know what are the possible outcomes of these storms, what are the dangers involved, and who will be effected. Even though we live far from "hurricane country" (the last time a hurricane did any serious damage in our state was before my students were born), being part of a wider community means being both concerned and compassionate about the effects of these natural disasters.
Talking about the hurricanes, and the potential tragedies that may occur as a result of their passing, should be done in an age appropriate fashion. At the high school level, I used some math related questions as a launching point to spend a few minutes talking to my students about natural disasters. The students saw real-world application of mathematics, and had the opportunity to somberly reflect on what that mathematics meant from the perspective of humanity in the path of the hurricane.
If you would like to take a look at some of the discussion that took place in my math classes, you can visit the following links:
Response to a question I received from a resident of Florida, who wanted to know how long she could expect her house to be "under" the hurricane. I used this question as a problem-solving exercise with my upper level math classes.
A write-up of a slightly more complex math question that I worked through with my students. The problem is to identify how long it will be before the hurricane reaches a specific point.
Professor Puzzler gets irate about the conspiracy theories and "fake news" floating around regarding hurricanes.