Making a Kite

A few weekends ago I took my kids to a great kite festival in a near-by small town.  It was amazing!  There were huge kites, small kites, kite flying demonstrations, and even professional kite flyers!  Although the kite festival was really fun, there was one, small snag.


The organizers of the event advertised that kids would be able to make their own kites.  This was the big draw for my kids, so as soon as we got out of the car, we made a beeline for the kite making station!  Imagine our excitement when we were the second family in line!

Then, imagine our frustration as we continued to stand in the line for the next 30 minutes.  The problem?  The kite builders were trying to have each of the children literally build. a. kite.  They had purchase dowel rods and parachute fabric. The idea was this . . . use a saw to cut the dowel rods.  Then, use a very teeny, tiny drill to drill holes at the ends of said dowel rods.  Next, tape the dowels together in a “+” and string tread through the holes to make the outline of the kite.  Finally, cut a piece of parachute fabric to cover the dowels and the edge of the kite and sew a hem around the entire perimeter of the kite with needle and thread.

Now, I have to say the up side of all of this?  The kites were legit kites . . . they probably would have actually flown!  The down side?  Every single child in line was under the age of 10 (interpretation–no one could do this on their own).  The station was set up so that only one child at a time could make the kites.

Finally, I leaned down to my kids and said . . . “Let’s go to a craft store, I’ll get the stuff to make the kites and we can do this at home!”

I made this offer numerous times, and about the 4th or 5th time I offered/begged them to get out of line, they finally agreed!

Now, we were going to make our own kites!  I headed to a craft store to get the supplies (which, by the way they don’t have parachute fabric!) and ended up with three, 36″ dowel rods, some fabric, and kite string.  We were ready to start making the kites!

Now, when you use the term “kite” it can mean many, many things.  There are kites like the kinds we saw flying that day, there are geometric shapes called kites, and there are kite graphs.  For this post I’m talking about kites that fly, but that are also in the shape of the geometric figure called a kite.

The definition of a kite is: a convex quadrilateral with two adjacent, congruent sides (length a) and two other congruent, adjacent sides (length b).  A rhombus is a special case of the kite.  The diagonals of a kite and perpendicular to each other, and one of the diagonals bisects the other diagonal.

I couldn’t make a rhombus kite, because I only had 3 dowels and two kids who wanted kites of their own.  And, it’d be really nice to only have to cut one of the dowels, instead of all 3 of them. Meaning, I’d like each of the kites to have one of the diagonals be length 36.”  The length of the other diagonal was up for debate, however . . .as long as it was at most 18″.  So, here’s what I knew . . .

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blue = dowel rods

red = string

So, I’m wondering . . . given these parameters what would you design the kite to look like?  How could you minimize the amount of string needed?  What about the amount of fabric needed to cover the entire kite?


Boston Marathon Times

This morning thousands and thousands of people did something I can not even imagine doing . . . they ran the Boston Marathon (It was actually 35,671 entrants to be exact)!

This year the winning men’s time was 2:08:37 (Meb Keflezighi from California) . . . that’s an average speed of about 1 mile every 4.88 minutes.  (As a comparison I re-started Couch-to-5K last night . . . and I ran about 1 mile every 11 minutes).

Anyway, the whole Boston Marathon thing got me thinking . . . I wonder how Meb’s time compares to other people who have won the Boston Marathon?

The first Boston Marathon was run in 1917.  John J. McDermott (NY) won that race with a time of 2:55:10.  He was still averaging about 1 mile every almost 7 minutes.  So, is Meb just exceptionally fast?  Was John just exceptionally slow?


The graph above represents all of the Boston Marathon times–from John to Meb and all of the marathoners in between.  What do the data seem to tell you?  Was John exceptionally slow?  What about Meb?


This shows the average time for 10 year time spans of Boston Marathon winners.  What seems to be happening to marathon times-over time?

If you had to model Boston Marathon winning times, based on the number of years since the first marathon what type of model would you use?  Exponential Growth/Decay?  Linear Increase/Decrease?  Quadratic model?  Why?  Do you think there might be anything noteworthy about the graph as people continue running the marathon?  Will anyone ever run the marathon in under 2 hours?  1 hour? (if someone ran a marathon in under an hour they would be averaging 1 mile approximately every 2.25 minutes)

I’d love to know what you think!  In the meantime . . . I’ll be trying to get under the 10 minute mile mark with my Couch-to-5k app!

In like a Lion; Out like a Lamb?

This morning as I was walking to work through whipping wind and freezing cold temps, I thought to myself “March, you’re supposed to be going out like a lamb.”  Goodness knows it sure came in like a lion!  Then, I started thinking about Groundhog’s Day and how unreliable that good old Phil actually is!  That made me wonder . . . is there really any truth to this whole lion/lamb thing?

I spent the better part of my morning trying to track down an answer!

This is what I did:

I’m only concerned with how March comes in and out, and not what happens in the middle of the month, so I thought I’d look at the first 7 days of March and the last 7 days of March.  Then, I did a quick search and found that the average March temperature in Iowa for the past 150 years is 34.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Given this information I decided I would define “Lion” to be a 7-day span in which 4 or more of the days had an average temperature that was less than the average monthly temperature.  Then, a “Lamb” was a 7-day span in which 4 or more of the days had an average temperature that was greater than or equal to the average monthly temperature.

I obtained daily average temperature data for Des Moines from The University of Dayton Average Daily Temperature Archive dating back to 1995.  Because the month of March isn’t over yet for 2014, I didn’t use the temperature data for any of the days in March 2014.  This is what I came up with:

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In the past 19 years March has followed the “In like a Lion; Out like a Lamb,” pattern in 13 different years (or 68% of the time).  It has followed an “In like a Lamb; Out like a Lamb” pattern 5 different years (or 26% of the time).  And once in the last 19 years March has come in like a Lion and gone out like a Lion . . . according to the average daily temperature in Des Moines.

This got me thinking about a few things:

1. This saying seems to be a little more accurate then the Groundhog shadow thing.

2. There weren’t any “In like a Lamb; Out like a Lion” years . . . I wonder how many times that has happened in the past 150 years (if at all)?

3. What do you think of my definition for Lion-like weather and Lamb-like weather?  Would you define it another way?  If so, how?

Happy Pi Day!

How could a blog devoted to all things math not have a post on Pi Day?  Truthfully, I had big plans for today . . . starting with the Pi Day cookies I wanted to bake and bring to work:

This is as far as I got making Pi cookies for today.

This is as far as I got making Pi cookies for today.


Honestly though, I’ve been running around like a crazy woman these last few weeks and just didn’t have enough time to get my self together to have a meaningful Pi Post today!  It seems as though the day as been jinxed.  You saw how well my Pi cookies turned out, then I went to the store to buy a pie to bring to work and they didn’t have any!  My husband did come through for me though and snagged this awesome Pi shirt from his junior high school (Thanks awesome junior high teacher!).

photo 1

Since I don’t have a great Pi Day post for you today, I thought I’d round up some of my favorite Pi activities from around the web . . . former students of mine will know some of these activities well 🙂

A great Pi Day cartoon:

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Pi set to music.  ( know there are lots of these around the web, but I have found this one to be the best!)

The argument for Tau Day (with two pies . . . I’m in!)

My favorite activity to do with students on Pi Day . . . although I’ve heavily adapted it!

Happy Pi Day one and all!  I’m off to round up some pie for lunch 🙂