I have struggled with how much math to throw at the kids. Most of the middle schoolers don’t have the math yet to really explain the concepts properly. But I throw it in anyway and that is starting to show some benefits as they get ahead of the curve when it hits them in class…

Without some of the math, the concepts are just that, concepts. Throwing in math and engineering helps reveal what’s behind the curtain. They may not get all of it but it lets them know there’s more to learn. Some kids think once they program and build the robot they have nothing more to learn. Oh contrere!

I don’t attribute all of it to pure math. How much force before your axle twists is not math, that is engineering where the math is applied. We talked about the new shafts the other night and how the extra 1/8 inch was cubed in its effect on the twist angle.

Trigonometry and the sin/cos/tan concepts are all over the place when dealing with force vectors. Vectors are one of the biggest set of building blocks for the students as it leads to more of the more static force analysis and kinematics.

In our line follower class, I threw at them how to figure out how much of an angle you would have for the outside line follower based upon how far in front of the center of rotation. Then we talked about instantaneous center of rotation in wheels not spinning at the same speed as well as using your gyros to know when to give up looking for the line (if they were in stock that is).

Position - Velocity - acceleration - jerk flow is really teaching them derivatives. Going the other way is integration. Granted they are not learning the formulas and various tricks of integral calculus but it is a darn good practical start that colleges tend to teach in the opposite direction of learn the math and then I will teach you all the cool engineering stuff.

I can go on and on but yes, I would like to see more math to prove they are learning too. But there’s a wide age range in Vex where they need to catch up to the math from the concepts they are learning.

Vex opens the door for interest and when they want to get better, the math follows along with the engineering. Showing the math is good for some areas but lets get the kids interested enough to want to need the math.