The Great Dirt Pile

My wife and I have been telling Ella that occasionally life really does become a math story problem. It just happened to us last week.

Our neighbor, Bruce, is one of the best people on the planet. He’s a really talented jeweler and is really great at designing projects, building things etc. Sometimes he gets us involved as well. Most of the time we are willing participants. Here comes the math.

Last week Bruce told my wife and I that he would be getting a load of compost that we would then share amongst three families. There was only one catch: we had to calculate the amount that would be needed for our yard. My wife and I pondered this proposition – do we calculate the amount needed by multiplying or by adding? Was it the area we were looking for or the volume? Did we have to try to figure out the hypotenuse? Does this involve the quadratic equation? My HP financial calculator proved useless.

After the heated discussions were over, we eventually had our numbers. And, after a few days, we had our dirt. A lot of it. 7 cubic yards worth to be specific.

I have to hand it to my wife – she estimated an amount based on a smaller scale of yard improvement than what we optimally would have liked. Good thing. Turns out 7 cubic yards of dirt is a lot more than what was truly needed. (The monster pile of Friday has turned into a much smaller pile as of Wednesday but it’s still pretty impressive).

Our wheelbarrow is less than robust to say the least. It’s rusting, has a flat tire and probably should be recycled. Nevertheless, it was good for about 50 loads of dirt this weekend.

Next time we have another project like this, I’m calling my Dad in Australia. He’s a retired mathematician. He’d know this practical math stuff right?


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