Math: Students Learn You Can't Escape It Police Show How Algebra Is Used in Investigations

By Date, Shruti | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 30, 2001 | Go to article overview

Math: Students Learn You Can't Escape It Police Show How Algebra Is Used in Investigations


Date, Shruti, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Shruti Date Daily Herald Staff Writer

A police car speeds through the empty parking lot of Margaret Mead Junior High in Elk Grove. Suddenly the officer hits the brakes.

The squad car slams to a halt, but not before leaving an impressive trail of rubber on the pavement.

A boisterous group of students, who are watching the action from a safe distance and behind orange cones, applaud his work.

This was no crime scene. This was math class.

Myles Greenberg and Mike Garrison, traffic officers with the Elk Grove Police Department, were showing eighth-graders how algebra, geometry and physics all come into play when they are investigating a traffic accident.

The officers themselves receive intensive algebra, geometry, trigonometry and physics training in order to be able to reconstruct the scene of any accident.

They measure, note and proportionally sketch the details of a scene to understand all the dynamics at a scene before, during and after the crash.

Greenberg and Garrison simulated one part of a car accident -the skid - to make their point. From skid marks, investigators can determine the speed, weight and direction of the vehicles involved. They also create skid marks of their own at every crash site for comparison.

Officers also must determine how the "drag factor," the friction of the pavement, affected the vehicles. …

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