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FARMER TED GOES NATURAL

By Greg Martin

Abstract

We’ve all been given a problem in a calculus class remarkably similar to the following one: Farmer Ted is building a chicken coop. He decides he can spare 190 square feet of his land for the coop, which will be built in the shape of a rectangle. Being a practical man, Farmer Ted wants to spend as little as possible on the chicken wire for the fence. What dimensions should he make the chicken coop? By solving a simple optimization problem, we learn that Farmer Ted should make his chicken coop a square with side lengths √ 190 feet. And that, according to the solution manual, is that. But the calculus books don’t tell the rest of the story: So Farmer Ted went over to Builders Square and told the salesman, “I’d like 4 √ 190 feet of chicken wire, please. ” The salesman, however, replied that he could sell one foot or two feet or a hundred feet of chicken wire, but what the heck was 4 √ 190 feet of chicken wire? Farmer Ted was taken aback, explaining heatedly that his family had been buying as little chicken wire as possible for generations, and he really wanted 4 √ 190 feet of chicken wire measured off for him immediately! But the salesman, fearing more irrational behavior from Farmer Ted, told him, “

Year: 1999
DOI identifier: 10.2307/2691219
OAI identifier: oai:CiteSeerX.psu:10.1.1.240.5587
Provided by: CiteSeerX
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