Gardens of Goodness
By Chadd McGlone
Chapel Hill, NC, United States
Many people in Central America grow the food they eat in small family gardens. Here’s just a short list of the many crops they might produce:
- chili peppers
They use what they harvest for family meals and keep the rest to sell at the weekly market.
During market day, businesses shut down and local roads close for natives from nearby villages to sell surplus goods in temporary booths. Each village hosts the market on a different day of the week, so that people can do their shopping without missing their own local market.
In the mountain village of Santa Avelina, Guatemala, gardens are typically planted on the corner of the family property, often next to the kitchen building. Kitchens are in a separate location because these indigenous Maya descendants cook over open fires or on a wood-burning stove. These gardens do not have fences because they are protected by family members and their dogs, pigs, and roosters.
Herbs get a slightly different treatment. A woven spiked fence surrounds every herb garden, protecting them from the same pigs and chickens that guard the other crops.
These gardens offer good opportunities to use math in a real-world setting. Suppose you’re going to construct a fence that is 48 fist lengths long. If you want to have the widest gate possible, how much space should you leave for an opening?
- Connecting to the Standards: Geometry (Grade 6)
- Connecting to the Standards: Multiplication and Division (Grade 3)
- Quadratic Equations (Grades 8–10)
- Find the dimensions of at least eight different family gardens, each with a perimeter of 48 fist lengths.
- Find the areas of the gardens. Make a table to compare the width, length, and area of each one. It’s okay to have widths that are greater than their corresponding lengths.
Social Justice Question
With better health care in Santa Avelina, the population is increasing. Since land to grow more food isn’t available, residents sometimes must leave for the city in order to earn a living. What possible solutions would you offer to this situation?
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