The flagpole problem does not represent the only occasion that a pastor has contacted me concerning a problem. A pastor once called me about a paving project at his church. The project involved building a cement ramp from the parking lot to a sidewalk in order to make a building wheelchair accessible. Due to the location of the ramp, the area to be paved was an irregularly shaped quadrilateral.

The pastor had called several companies for an estimate on the paving. One individual showed up, measured the PERIMETER of the quadrilateral, and based his quote on what he referred to as the AREA of the section. The pastor thought this sounded questionable, and called for my assistance. The area turned out to be approximately one-half the figure given by the paver. Using the paver's stated charge per square foot, the result was several hundred dollars less than his original quote. I tried to explain my reasoning to the gentlemen, but his response was basically, "Son, I do this for a living. Who are you to tell me how to do my job?" and he refused to change his quote. He left and the pastor never heard from the man again.

Both the flagpole and the paving examples demonstrate the necessity of a mathematics education for ALL, even those entering fields that are not by nature mathematically intensive.