NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

May 14, 2014

Boats, not books

With 'Math on the Merrimack,' students take skills outside the classroom

AMESBURY — As a math teacher at Amesbury High School, Jessica Regis knows that half the battle is making the abstract a reality for her students.

“The need was to make math accessible,” Regis said. “To answer the question, ‘When will we use this?’ And to have the students see a real-life application.”

Out rowing a boat by Lowell’s Boat Shop one day during the summer of 2012, Regis saw her chance. She got caught up in the powerful current and had to use all her analytic talents to get herself back on track.

“I was Bob in a boat,” Regis said. “If Bob is in a boat on the river and the current is so much, how much does Bob have to row?”

Regis extracted herself from her quandary, but saw a way to inspire her students and the “Math on the Merrimack” program soon began with the help of Lowell’s Boat Shop and an initial $10,000 grant from the Amesbury Education Foundation Inc (AEFI.)

For the past two school years, Regis’ Honors Analysis and College Prep Advanced Math classes have been rowing out of Lowell’s Boat Shop conducting experiments to determine the Merrimack River’s velocity, depth, tidal variations, distances and rowing speeds using geometry, trigonometry and algebra.

“How many students are going to go row a boat and bring a sextant with them? Probably not that many,” Regis said. “But you can still see where it can be used and where it has been used in the past. It’s not just, ‘open your books and blah, blah, blah.’ It’s personalized information. they go out, they create it, they generate it, they measure it, they take it back to class, synthesize and analyze it. We are using all that high-level thinking, all from them. They are learning more than just math. They are learning about their local area and their local history. They are learning about working together.”

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