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Don't Sweat the Small Stuff!

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

Hi Everyone! Math and Science Michelle here with my first blog entry. There is a whole wide world of mathematics and science topics out there to talk about. Are you yawning already? No! Don’t get sleepy on me yet! I want to ease us all into it with something we can all relate to since we live in Texas: Sweat! Weird, right? Well, one thing I observe about my fellow humans in the world is that people get insecure about getting all sweaty sometimes. But why?! It’s a natural phenomenon and super important for our internal cooling system to keep us healthy.

Sweat is also a prime example of how math and science can work together.

But before I get to that, let’s talk about what we’re up to in Math and Science class this week.

In Science we’re just finishing up units on Heredity, Genetics, and Evolution and moving into the Fossils and History of Life on Earth units. Last semester it was all about Space - which also fit in nicely with demonstrating how science and math work hand in hand. We were able to explore basic concepts in physics and show examples of how physicists use symbolism in their math sentences. Yep - this is a simple way of saying algebra, calculus, geometry, and trigonometry equations. We play around a lot with perspective because mathematics can be pretty intimidating. But Math has a story too - And I’ll get into that in a later blog post!

In the Math portion of our day we bounce around between pre-algebra, algebra, and basic math and the various functions. We have a lot of game play math exercises to reinforce the usage of basic math concepts as well as building our ability to create efficient solution strategies. Repetition is an important part of the overall lesson plan to get the students to internalize basic math concepts so that it becomes second nature!

Just look at these brilliant calculations!

Are you sweating yet? No? Great! Because if you were we would want to know the rate at which your body is losing salt. Salt, an important electrolyte necessary to keep your energy levels in balance - including brain activity - and keeping all your cells hydrated.

And here is an example of a cell diagram! Artists in the house, people!

Hydration and your brain. According to an article written in the National Institutes of Health, 75% of brain mass is water and there has been shown to be a negative effect of dehydration on cognitive performance, short term memory, and mood. So how can we stay hydrated and what role does salt play?

Our bodies need something called electrolytes to help maintain fluid balance in our cells. Electrolytes help direct the various nutrients to the specific areas they need to get to. The main electrolytes are salt, potassium, chloride, magnesium, calcium, phosphate, and bicarbonates.

But Uncle Ralph who sleeps on the sofa after every Thanksgiving meal was told he needed to eliminate salt from his diet because he has high blood pressure, you say? That’s because every *body* is different - we vary because we are all different ages, have different habits, and sweat and exercise differently. If Uncle Ralph makes a habit of drinking a Gatorade type product because he thinks it’s good for him, yet doesn’t exercise and create scenarios where he is sweating, the Gatorade type drink could actually be bad for his health. Athletes often have to measure the amount of salt they lose in their sweat because they sweat so much and if they don’t replace the electrolytes they lose they will become dehydrated, their muscles will cramp, and suffer performance loss and their cognitive ability will be weakened.

I first learned about this when I was at a training camp with 6X Ironman champ Dave Scott. Some were their training for Kona, some were training for the Giro d’Italia. I was just there for a lowly half IM in Iowa, Olympic in Chicago, and marathon in Hawaii… And because I was a fan of Dave Scott (a vegetarian super athlete)!There was goo and protein powders and prerace gels … and salt tablets. Had I ever had my salt loss calculated? No. No, I hadn’t. But these guys and gals had. One guy who was training for Kona was riding right in front of me in a paceline in black cycling shorts and as he sweat out the salt, white salt crystals started forming patterns on his black shorts!

So - what’s this all about, I wondered.

Here is an example of what it looks like for an athlete to calculate their sweat loss so they can perform optimally:

The above chart is from a random athletic company with an example athlete named Ben Pulham. If you want to check out the details of the report, go here. Keep in mind that this is just one of many companies that do this and is just to be used as reference to how math and science are used together for all kinds of reasons - many of which I hope to cover in this blog! But the concepts could help you too because I would bet dollars to donuts you like to be in a good mood and probably don’t like it much if you get muscle cramps!

Most of us are not elite athletes, yet we also are not Uncle Ralph - we fall somewhere in the middle. It is still important to get the right amount of electrolytes and water to maximize how we feel from moment to moment and to do the tasks we need to do in everyday life. Feeling anxious? Maybe have a glass of water! Tired? Water. Tummy ache? Try water! Feeling parched?! Water water water! And the fancy electrolytes like salt will help make sure all the water in your body is balanced and sending nutrition where it’s needed.

Pretty smart, huh? Nature is pretty smart like that.

Our science/math research project is basically to study a person in history that observed nature so much they came up with theories that were tested and compared and verified over and over until proven true and were so strong, we still use them today. Back in the days of Newton and Pythagoras there wasn’t a search engine beyond their own observations. I mean, think about it: Galileo and Descartes lived in the 1500’s, Pythagoras lived around 500 BCE, and Fibonacci (aka Leonardo Bonacci) lived in the 12th century. And we are still using their equations and geometry today! Thank goodness for us modern day folk those observations were documented and that documentation persevered through time - it *time traveled* so to speak! - so I could learn it and use it and then teach it so that these wonderful students can learn it and use it and, most likely, continue to pass it on. Just like a big ol’ game of telephone.

This is all about building good habits and thinking freely, logic and imagination, meeting people where they’re at and kindness toward one another. Nature doesn’t sweat the small stuff, and neither do we! As a famous astronaut once said, “To infinity and beyond!”

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Mar 13, 2023

Interesting! Sounds like you all are having fun in math and science! :)

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