Bridges serve one basic purpose that of connecting two points that are otherwise disconnected and difficult to access. Generally it provides the shortest distance between the two points. The art and science of constructing these structures rely heavily on the mathematics and consequently the physics of stress and load. Some of the prevailing factors that influence the designs and types of structures include the intended use and users, the available constructing materials, environmental conditions, cost, adequate manpower, the length of the span, the type of river banks, present and projected traffic load, the free height under the bridge, aesthetic considerations and the available technology. (Salvadori, 144)
The history of mankind suggests that his survival is somewhat dependent on the ability to travel from place to place whether for war, protection or in search of the resources vital to his existence. To facilitate this mobility, man has used several techniques to bridge gaps providing easy and short access routes. Over time, as the demand on human existence intensifies, coupled with the growth of technology, be it small, man has devised more efficient and elaborate means of transportation by land, water and even air. Consequently better, safer and more durable bridge structures emerged. The technology that emerged provided the world with four basic forms of bridge structures that are replicas of natural forms found in nature. "But there is still more to the bridge than just usefulness and looks. However shallow the water, the smallest stream can seem a Rubicon. Our other aim must to consider the bridge as symbolic marker, dominating a stage that the traveler has reached on a journey that may not, perhaps, be reversed."( Sweetman, 1)
I teach mathematics at the eighth grade level in a middle school in New Haven. The population is predominantly Black- about twelve percent Latino, five percent Asian and twenty percent white. There is a pressing need to improve the academic performance of our students in the area of mathematics given the recent results of our standardized testing. There is a noticeable deficiency in the area of mathematical applications - an unacceptable number of our students lack the mastery and proficiency in this area. Consequently, the development and use of a curriculum that focuses on the practical application of the basic mathematical concepts should be helpful in addressing the student's deficiencies.
Given the level of mathematics that is taught at the eighth grade level, the mathematical focus on the topic of bridges will be on proportions.