Academy of Health Students Find Out, From a Doctor

Why Do I Need to Know Algebra?
Posted on 03/25/2019
Image of Dr. Todd Ritzman at Akron Children's Hospital(Courtesy, Harlan Spector, Akron Children's Hospital)

Students often wonder why they need to know algebra or geometry.

“They ask when am I going to use it outside these four walls?” says Thomas Jefferson. For the past year, Thomas has been helping answer that question. He is the Akron Children’s Hospital liaison for the hospital’s partnership with Akron Public Schools’ College & Career Academies.

During the 2017-18 school year, Akron Public Schools launched the Akron Children’s Hospital Academy of Health and Human Services to bring health professionals to North High School in Akron, where the program is based, and to bring students into the hospital. The idea is to expose students to all aspects of healthcare, from customer service and direct patient care to biomedical science and hospital operations. About 300 Akron students in grades 10 through 12 are enrolled in the healthcare academy.

For math teacher Eileen Everett, the program is an opportunity to teach students a real-world application of geometry.

As she pondered “teaching through the lens” – a focus of the academy this year – Eileen thought about her daughter’s diagnosis of scoliosis 20 years ago. Doctors had determined the degree of curvature of her spine, so Eileen did some research to learn how geometry is used in that process.

Through the program liaison, she arranged a meeting with pediatric orthopedic surgeon Dr. Todd Ritzman.

Since it would not be practical for Dr. Ritzman to speak to all 4 of her classes, he instead worked with Akron Children’s Audio Visual Department to make videos that Eileen can show to all her students.

In the videos, Dr. Ritzman uses x-rays of broken and deformed bones to demonstrate how geometry is used for diagnoses and treatment.

In a video about scoliosis, Dr. Ritzman uses an instrument called a goniometer to measure a “Cobb angle” – the degree of the curvature.

“He speaks to young people very well,” Eileen said. “He has a wonderful demeanor. I’m going to have my students do the same thing so they can figure out the curvature.”

In another video, Dr. Ritzman shows an x-ray of a patient with “knock knee” – a pain-inducing angular deformity. Dr. Ritzman walks students through the process of measuring the angle of the knee, which he determined was at 78 degrees instead of the normal 90 degrees. Using the same technique, he showed how correcting the angle would require surgically removing a 17-degree wedge of bone.

“We took what was abnormal and made it normal,” he says in the video. Watch the videos and learn more about the College & Career Academies of Akron here >>.
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