The Battle of Trafalgar

Somewhere on the College Board website, I found a write-up of the Battle of Trafalgar (Nelson over Napoleon’s fleet, 1805, England expects every man to do her duty) that modeled the battle with differential equations and explained why Nelson was brilliant. The last couple of years, I’ve given it to my Calc II students to make sense of. They come back thoroughly confused; I shrug and move on.

I finally learned that they won’t get there on their own. Last week, I mentioned that if we had time, we’d go over it. We didn’t have time then. Today, we finished early, and I was going to give my Calc II student time to do homework. Instead, she said, “Wait, wasn’t there something you wanted to show me? Could we do that?”

So we did. And she was genuinely interested! And following along! And understanding!

My family are all major history buffs; I had to learn military history in self-defense so I could participate in dinner conversation. Now I get to share that with someone else, and combine it with math!


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