How to escape from terrorists, post-apocalyptic wastelands and man-eating crabs (using maths)


My friend Damon Whitten is putting together some pretty cool maths and numeracy lessons designed to engage the unengaged… This is maths designed to illustrate the point that we need these skills in real life.

The scenarios might seem extreme, but hey… have you ever seen Die Hard 2?

1. How to escape when you are being chased by terrorists

You and your friend are being chased across a flat Savanna in Africa by bad guys, on foot.  They are twenty minutes behind you.

You have to cover a further ten kilometres to get to safety.  The bad guys are going to send their fittest runners after you.  They will catch you and kill you.  The stakes are high but luckily for you, you have a twenty minute head start.

You can find more information and the rest of the problem here. No maths = certain death.

2. How to survive in post apocalyptic wastelands

You have survived the apocalypse and find yourself the reluctant leader of a group of ragtag survivors. Due to the situation in which you find yourself, your group has to collect its drinking water from a river a distance from your base.

How it works is this – A person sneaks (quietly) to the river and fills containers with water and carries them back and tips them into a tank.  The tank is outside of your base but connected to your base by a pipe and tap.  So long as the tank gets filled daily, your people are fine.  Here is the issue – If the tank is not completely filled, your group will suffer extreme dehydration – and probably die.

You can find more information and the rest of the problem here. Again, no maths means dehydration and death.

3. How to escape from a desert island overrun with man-eating crabs

Due to some unexpected circumstances you and your work mate find yourselves on a deserted island. Unfortunately, the island is covered in deep holes that look much like rabbit holes.  You have peered down them but are a bit chicken to go poking sticks down there.

Alarmingly, you find out the first night that the holes are occupied by man-eating crabs.  The crabs emerge, attack on mass and drag your fellow companion down the holes – In bits.  Brian paid the ultimate price for you to have one extra day alive.  However, tonight they are coming for you.

You must get off the island before dark. As you stand on the shore you notice an island off in the distance.  It looks beautiful and safe.  You wonder how far it is?  Could you swim to it?  How far is too far?  It’s very hard to judge distances on the sea.

You can find out more information about the problem here.

Once more… those without a basic understanding of trigonometry will die an agonising death eaten alive by giant man-eating crabs…

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

2 thoughts

  1. very cute! Obviously Damon’s been playing a lot of online games! I can see these questions appealing to young guys in particular. I’d be interested to see if they appeal to teenage girls. Here’s one for the girls: “OMG! You’re about to run out of credit on your phone. You can purchase 500 texts for $5, 1,000 texts for $8 or 2,000 texts for $12. Which offer is the best deal?”

    1. Haha. Yes, perhaps it has something to do with having boys… For the record, my girls would be into it if it was Zombies, but you’re right. Great scenario here for teenage girls. Damon…?

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