Flagpole Problem

by Karl Mealor

During my planning period one day, I received a phone call from a local pastor who needed assistance with a problem. He, along with one of his church members, had just finished installing a flagpole in front of their church. He was concerned about a power line to the church that was located in relative proximity to the installation site. He thought that the pole was sufficiently heavy enough to knock the power line down should the pole ever fall due to strong winds, being struck by a vehicle, vandals, etc., creating a fire/safety hazard. Therefore, he wanted to know if the pole was located far enough away from the power line. (If not, he had to move the pole before the concrete set, so there is some amount of time pressure on the answer.)

Before proceeding, determine the further information you would need in order to solve this problem. What questions would you ask the pastor to obtain this information? Remember two things: 1) You are talking to him on a phone and you cannot actually see the situation. It may help for you to draw a diagram. 2) The pastor may have a limited knowledge of mathematical terminology. (In this case, he did have a rather good background.)

Click here to see the questions I asked the pastor and to obtain the specifics of the situation.

Click here to see a solution proposed by three of my students.

Did you think of an alternative solution? If so, please e-mail me your solution at kmealor5@hotmail.com