Tuesday, May 02, 2006

An environmental math activity

Caring for the environment is a hot classroom topic. While I'm sure teachers can find all kinds of curricula on the subject, here's a current events activity I'm making up as I go along. First, learn about GM's Hybrid Bus. Then, using some math projections, calculate the hybrid bus's impact on the environment.

Here's a great place to start: http://fyi.gmblogs.com/2006/04/has_your_city_gone_hybrid.html

This blog post talks about how much fuel hybrid buses can save each year. The fact is stated this way, "In fact, if America's nine largest cities replaced their transit fleets — totaling 13,000 buses — with GM's hybrid buses, the cities would save 40 million gallons of fuel each year — a greater savings than 500,000 small hybrid vehicles would produce."

Just how many math problems can a teacher extract from just that sentence?? It gets better! Someone posted a response suggesting that school districts could replace their current diesel buses with these hybrid buses. Can you calculate the fuel savings for your district's bus fleet if they went fully hybrid?

Wow. Social commentary, involvement in social media, all wrapped up in environmental science and pinned together with math.

It's amazing what you learn at every turn. Happy computing!


xyb said...

Here's how I'm thinking the math works:

13,000 buses
40,000,000 gallons of diesel saved every year

3,077 gallons saved every year per bus? (I want to check this number with GM; that's a lot of driving)

Check online to see if we can find the MPG of one of these traditional diesel buses, just to get a feel for how many miles each of these buses drives each year. (The Variable?)

Then, figure out either by mile driven, or by figuring that a city bus drives as much as a school bus (hm... really?), how many gallons of diesel the school district could save.

I'm thinking we have to find out the miles each bus drives to do this accurately, but it could also open a discussion of how numbers like this are calculated, and how missing a step can have drastic results.

I'd *love* to find out the cost of one of these buses!

Joe said...

Here in Ottawa back in the 70's instead of building a light rail system they opted for a "transitway" which basically is a bus only route.


What happens in that all buses basically hit downtown at the same time. It's insane to see a 100 buses, half empty, burning gas at lights.

Thankfully light rail is finally on the way.


I know that a "normal" city bus runs about 250K.

xyb said...

Interesting. Yeah, that would create a bit of a bottleneck, eh? Think of the social study as well as the mathematical and engineering/planning aspect for a classroom lesson...

Is that $250k Canadian dollars?