You can rake your own yard, thank you very much

Once you’re a teacher, you view the world in a different way. Even though I’ve been out of the classroom for a year and change, I still view real life experiences as motivation for a lesson plan. I’ll be saddened by the day that this stops (but I don’t think it ever will).

I was raking my yard today because, as winter encroaches upon the lives of everyone else in the northern hemisphere, it’s just now autumn in Texas. As I was wrapping up my front yard I saw that my neighbor’s yard was yet to be raked as well. I wondered if I should help him.

This is a moment I would want all of my former students to embrace. This isn’t a situation of “I wonder if… guess I’ll never know!” NO. It’s a moment where you can actually figure it out. Or at least estimate.

I had a recent conversation with my dear old friend Jenna about this. She works in her district’s office for math coaching and curriculum development. We had an in-depth conversation about the word “numeracy” and what the definition should be as a statement and goal by the district. Her team was almost settled on “numeracy is the proficiency to use numbers and mathematical concepts with flexibility and confidence to develop reasonable solutions to relevant, real-world problems” but neither of us liked “proficiency.” It sounds like it’s something that can be right or wrong. We both liked the idea that numeracy is a natural inclination to use math to address a problem. And that’s what I did today.

There is a classic old algebra problem that everyone hates. Mary can paint her house in 2 hours but Sue can paint her house in 3. If they paint together, how long does it take? How often does this even happen? Problems like this are most definitely written in Comic Sans.

But today, as I was raking my yard, I thought about this contrived and overused problem. I realized it could help me with my dilemma of deciding to help my neighbor.

I estimated that my plot had 5000 square feet of rake-able yard and my neighbor has about 6000 square feet of yard. I estimated that I can do my full yard by myself in 1.5 hours, therefore giving myself a rate of 3300/square feet per hour. My neighbor is a strong guy with a determined work ethic that doesn’t get distracted by possible math situations so I gave him a buffer and said he could do his yard in 2 hours giving him a rate of 3000/square feet per yard.

Rate 1 + Rate 2 = Rate together. So together we could do 6300 square feet in 1 hour.

Since my yard is 5000 square feet – 5000/6300 * 60 minutes in an hour = 47 minutes to rake my yard. Hey that saved me 43 minutes. Things are looking good.

Since his yard is 6000 square feet – 6000/6300 * 60 minutes in an hour = 57 minutes.

Combined, we would take 104 minutes to rake both of our yards. Excluding the potential benefit of friendship, the cost of this engagement is 14 minutes extra than it would if I raked my yard in contemplative isolation. That 14 minutes could be spent writing this post.

Sorry dude.