Thursday, March 31, 2016

Math and the Police.

Police, Fog, Seaside  Have you ever wondered how the police use math?  Most of what I know comes from personal experience or watching television shows like CSI.  I wondered about specific examples of how math is used by the police officers.

PBS has a great segment on how math is used in accident reconstruction. The unit begins with a 15 minute video in which a police officer talks about the ways he uses math in his job. The lesson comes with a worksheet so students can practice accident reconstruction.  It even includes the teacher guide. 

Plus Math has several articles on the topic.  One is a general introduction to various maths used by the police including information on inverse problems such as finding the shape of something based on the shadow, calculating speed based on length of a skid, clarifying blurry photos, and clearing up fingerprints.

The National Science Foundation has a great video on fighting crime.  It was made in conjunction with the Los Angeles Police Department and shows how math modeling is used to understand crime spikes.  The description offers a good summary of this topic and I would print this off to have students read after they watch the video.  Since my students are ELL, they don't always know what to write down when watching a video.  They do much better just being able to watch the video and then read about it.

This site has a lovely slide show which hows much of the material from above, combined to create a wonderful introduction to the question of "How do police use math?".

Last is something out of Texas which talks about a variety of ways math is used in police work.  It comes with the list, a work sheet to find information from the reading and short answer questions on the material.

Honestly, there are not that many decent units that discuss the math used in police work.  There is some material for elementary school but I teach high school and prefer finding units that allow my students to experience using the math.  Currently the best resource out there is the television show "Numb3rs" with all the associated worksheets that can be found on the internet.  I'd still prefer finding more units that show the geometry, trig, or other maths used by the different divisions of law enforcement.