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Calculus adds up for high achievers

Marina High students do activity that demonstrates the practical applications of math.

January 11, 2012|By Mona Shadia
  • Marina High School seniors Aaron Drake, 17, and Griffin Mori-Tornheim, 17, sitting next to the "rapper" they made from wood as part of their calculus project.
Marina High School seniors Aaron Drake, 17, and Griffin… (HB Independent )

As part of their Advanced Placement calculus assignments, Marina High School seniors Aaron Drake, 17, and Griffin Mori-Tornheim, 17, had to bring complex mathematical formulas to life.

So they built an upper body of a rapper with a microphone in his hand and dressed him with a T-shirt and sunglasses. It looked more like a dinosaur with a sunglasses because of its green, elongated face. The rapper resembled a picture of a man on a T-shirt both students wore when they played on a dodgeball team called Raptor Squad.

But nonetheless, it made perfect sense because the density and volume of the rapper illustrated a mathematical formula.

"We wanted to make something we liked," Aaron said.

Other students made a plane, a guitar and an astronaut, among others. Students used painted wood and cardboard to make their projects.

The project was on display at the school for everyone to view, and the point was to bring calculus into perspective and show students how it works in real life, said math teacher Rick Boogar. The 83 students taking the class this year are the school's top students. They can get college credit if they pass the AP test, and this difficult project is part of their assignment.

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Each year, the calculus students work on the project, which takes at least five days with four to five hours dedicated to it each day. The project shows how math is used to build anything from a bottle of Windex to computers and planes. Boogar said the students get to test their skills and also think about future career options.

"These are talented students, but are not sure what they want to pursue," he said. "The engineers will love this and will help them focus on what their interests are."

But those who aren't into engineering find out quickly.

"I don't think I want to do it again," Griffin said. "I want to stay as far away as I can."

But all is not lost. Aaron said they learned they're hard workers. Both plan to explore careers in business.

mona.shadia@latimes.com

Twitter: @MonaShadia

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