The Martian could turn kids on to science and math, teachers hope. The astronaut hero, played by Matt Damon in the movie, is stranded on Mars, left for dead by his crew mates. He figures out how to survive and communicate with NASA, so he can be rescued.
“Teachers love it,” author Andy Weir, a programmer and space buff, told Ed Week. “It’s full of math word problems.”
Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson has called the plot a “celebration” of scientific literacy. The Mars mission and Watney’s survival tactics—he creates water by burning hydrazine and he turns about a dozen Thanksgiving potatoes into a crop of potato plants using Martian soil and his own waste, to name two—are scientifically vetted and largely possible.
Teachers are turning the book into a study aid, says Weir. Some teachers “download illegal copies of the book and print it up as worksheets and stuff for their kids.”
A good simple algebra problem in the book is Mark has enough food to last this long and can grow potatoes at this rate. Every potato has this many calories. How long now until he runs out of food? It works out to be like a bucket with a hole in it [problem, in which the bucket is leaking and being refilled]. It’s exactly that same format just with calories and time. That’s a good one for 9th grade algebra.
Damon hopes the movie will inspire students.
I enjoyed the book without trying to follow the science, math or engineering. It was about ingenuity, grit and courage.