Star Math – Where Am I?

If you’ve never read Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, it’s full of unexpected life truths. Essentially, Milo, a little boy bored with life, blithely embarks on an adventure where he meets extraordinary people and creatures. At one point, he encounters Alec, a boy that was born in the air and grows from his adult height down to the ground (so his point of view never changes). Milo is convinced that they’re lost:

“Do you know where we are?” asked Milo.

“Certainly,” he replied, “we’re right on this very spot. Besides, being lost is never a matter of not knowing where you are; it’s a matter of not knowing where you aren’t—and I don’t care at all about where I’m not.”

Today is all about having confidence in the very spot you’re in.

I’ve always been a bit uptight about being lost. It just annoys me to get turned around. Maybe it makes me feel like I failed my mission to get from point A to B. Maybe I feel vulnerable without a strategic understanding of my surroundings. For whatever reason, my desire to want to know where I am led me to start studying navigation, and I say we learn together!

The Most Basic Form of Navigation

Says the Oxford Dictionary, navigation is “the process or activity of accurately ascertaining one’s position and planning and following a route.”

Plainly: Figure out where you are, figure out where you want to go, and how you’re going to get there. The most basic navigation involves moving from one known landmark to the next.

So to get from my room to the kitchen I’d:

– Locate the door
– Once there, I’d look about for the hallway and kitchen door
– Upon arriving at the kitchen door, I’d locate the fridge and success!

Now, I may have had to make adjustments for bends in the path and obstacles (the number of times I’ve run into the vacuum…), but I was essentially hopping from one landmark to another.

But if you don’t know where you are, and are following directions, there are a ton of devices to help with your sense of direction.

General Awareness

Common sense will get you a long way, but some people struggle with understanding where they fit in with their surroundings (it’s called proprioception and mine isn’t the best for unrelated reasons, but most things can be trained to be better!), not to mention that all the marks and numbers on compasses can make your head spin. So here’s an easy way to understand what all that means:

Next time you go out (or anytime you remember) think about what’s around you, to the front, back and sides!

I’ll be back next time to chat about how many Norths there are …just one… right?? The answer is… kind of?

See you then!

1 Comment

  1. […] time we explored the direction circle, or what degrees mean in relation to turning around. Now you know that North is usually written as […]

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