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Go West Young Man!


Yes, the cry of the early USA settlers was “Go West Young Man”. This exciting period of exploration led to large numbers of people travelling out to Oregon in the far west (read some interesting Trail Facts here). They faced incredible difficulties and many challenges, not only on the journey but also in settling into a new way of life. This pic is taken in Oregon City, at the end of the trail, where there is a really informative Interpretive Center. Here, the Willamette River flows over the Willamette Falls. The falls were a major obstacle to transportation in the early days, but the valley itself is now one of the most fertile agricultural regions in North America, and was thus the destination of many 19th-century pioneers travelling west along the Oregon Trail. In the 21st century, major highways follow the river and roads cross it on more than 50 bridges. More info here. (PS: The Willamette is pronounced to rhyme with “Dam It” – after all, “It’s the Willamette, dam it!”)

The Oregon Trail makes for some great mathematical activities, such as average distance travelled each day, seasonal temperatures on the trail, and the probability of disease, fatalities or injury. But many maths students don’t know the compass directions so here they are for your refreshment. Remember that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. If you draw a simple map of your country  you normally have it pointing north. If so, then East is on the right and West on the left. The in-between compass points are always taken from the major one between. For example, between West and North, the major compass direction is North (in red below), so we call the in-between “North West” or NW for short. So, check these directions out as they come up regularly in class tests in Geometry and Trigonometry:

There are some wonderful Mathematics tasks that follow the early adventures of the great pioneers, Lewis and Clark, such as at this site.

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